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The Pro12 Has Improved Under Its New Format

At the start of the season there was outrage, worry, debate and anger from all sides as a result of the new format for the Pro12.

As we approach the end of the season, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth as we have seen a revitalised league that has grown in stature over the last year and it’s all thanks to the changes that were made.

This year was the first time where European qualification was garnered fully through final league position and while there were some issues at the beginning it has turned out to be a massive boost to everyone involved.

Guinness are in their first year of sponsorship and they couldn’t have picked a better time to join the Pro12 as it looks like its only going to go from strength to strength now.

While the European qualification criteria has increased the standard of the league there is another factor doing this. Sports Giant Sky Sports coming on board, broadcasting 33 games a season for the next three years has helped the league no end.

At least for the foreseeable future we now know that Sky is the home of the Pro12. The league as a result has  got a much higher profile now on a global sense. Prior to this year Bt had the English Aviva Premiership and Sky had the top 14 but the Pro12 was spread across numerous stations so having a home for the league has definitely helped.

Having Sky on board will do wonders for the appeal of the league, you just have to look at how the station made the ‘Heineken Cup’ what it is today. If Sky can do even half of that for the Pro12 then they have done a great job. Whatever the station tend to put their hand to it invariably increases the profile and exposure of the sport, and we have seen the full brunt of that this year.

One thing Sky cant control though is the standard and the tightness of the league and they have been blessed on both counts this year. There have been some excellent games this year, including last week’s exciting draw between Ulster and Munster, which was dramatic right till the end. There have been great games all the way through the season and as we enter the final chapter we are sure to see more thrills and spills in the coming weeks.

As we head into the final regular weekend of the season, the proof is in the pudding as to if the league has been a success or not. Every game on the final weekend of action means something this year, and in theory, you can’t ask much more from a competition. Up to this year there were a lot of dead rubbers near the end of the season but that time has come and gone.

There may only be one game left but there is still so much to play for. Munster, Ulster, Glasgow and the Ospreys have already qualified for the semi-finals but all four of them still have realistic chances of getting a home semi-final with a win this weekend.

On the other end of the scale – Zebre, Treviso, Edinburgh, Connacht and the Scarlets all still have aspirations of joining the semi-finalists and Leinster in the Champions Cup next year. Whatever way you look at it, the Pro12 is all set for a dramatic conclusion.

So whether it’s the steady improvement of the Ospreys, Connacht and Edinburgh, the dramatic fall from grace by Leinster, Ulster’s dream of a home final or Glasgow’s mission to finally get over the line, the Pro12 of 2015 has had it all and the best may still be yet to come.

It’s in stark contrast to where the league was previously but for now at least the Pro12 is in a great place and long may it continue.

Robert Cribbin, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.