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'The whole Pro14 Rainbow Cup has turned into a mishmash competition'

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton thinks the Pro14 is making too many changes.

Former Lions and Wales captain Sam Warburton.
Former Lions and Wales captain Sam Warburton.
Image: PCA

FORMER WALES AND British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton says the Pro14′s ill-fated Rainbow Cup has turned into a “mishmash” competition following today’s confirmation that the four South African teams will not be travelling to play the existing Pro14 sides this season.

Concerns surrounding the feasibility of the originally proposed Rainbow Cup format had been growing in recent weeks, and the inevitable news landed earlier today as the Pro14 confirmed the competition will now proceed as a ‘dual tournament’ instead.

This will involve the 12 Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and Italian sides playing six rounds of games followed by a final, while the South African sides – the Lions, Bulls, Stormers, and Sharks – play out their own competition without travelling to the UK and Ireland.

And former Wales and Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton says he was never a fan of the proposed changes to the league.

“I’m not going to lie, I think the whole Pro14 Rainbow Cup has turned into a mishmash competition,” he said.

“I think you need to keep it to domestic leagues. Ideally, I’d have it as just a Celtic league. I think the Italian teams should go into the French league, it would be much better for them logistically and they would agree with that as well.

Keep it how it used to be. Obviously the ideal situation would be to have a British & Irish league but the brutal fact is the English don’t need the Celtic teams. But I think the Pro14, it’s changing every year and it’s almost like shamelessly going around with a money sack, and not the best quality of product. 

“So I don’t think it makes a difference to me personally. I’d much rather watch Welsh teams play each other, Irish teams play each other, I think that would make better games to be honest.”

Warburton was speaking as Canterbury launched the new Lions jersey for this summer’s tour to South Africa.

And the two-time tourist says he would love to see Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell join Warren Gatland’s coaching team in South Africa.

sam-warburton-and-paul-oconnell-sit-out-the-training-session Warburton and O'Connell on the 2013 Lions tour. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Lions head coach recently left the door open to add another member to his coaching team, fueling speculation O’Connell could link up with the Lions if it didn’t interfere with Ireland’s potential tour to the Pacific Islands.

“I thought that, putting two and two together, because it makes you wonder whether he’ll complete his duties with Ireland and then he’ll come on as a lineout coach, as a forwards coach for the second half of the tour,” Warburton said.

Having Paulie around the group would be amazing, even if he didn’t coach, just to have around the group and have his presence there. And people think he’s a brand-new coach. He’s done a lot, Munster Academy, he’s done Stade Francais in France, so he’s been involved in three different environments already, this will be his fourth environment. 

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“He’s probably not as new and a novice as people think and I’d say Paulie, for the second half of his career at least, he would have been pretty much the lineout coach as a player. All your top lineout callers, say on the last tour is was George Kruis, he was more or less the lineout coach alongside Steve Borthwick. They’d consult with each, they’d go through the moves and then he portrays it to the players. 

“So Paul O’Connell’s been in that coaching role, even though it’s formally for only a few years, he’s probably been doing that coaching role for like 10 years. He’s a very experienced lineout operator so I think he’d be a great addition on tour.”

Sam Warburton was speaking as Canterbury launched the British & Irish Lions Test jersey, available from www.canterbury.com

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Ciarán Kennedy

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