Former Munster assistant coach Jerry Flannery has delivered a damning assessment of the Guinness PRO14, claiming that the just recently finished 2020/21 campaign was the worst ever. Leinster defeated Munster in last weekend’s latest final in the tournament that featured teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales with South Africa on a sabbatical before the competition becomes the PRO16 next season. 

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Now a current Harlequins assistant coach, Flannery has been monitoring the PRO14 from a distance this term and he hasn’t enjoyed what he has seen. 

Such has been the dominance of the four Irish teams, only two players from this season’s other eight teams had a representative in the PRO14 Dream Team, Glasgow’s Huw Jones and Cardiff”s Josh Turnbull. 

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With Europe competitions now taking centre-stage over the Easter weekend, the round of 16 draws in the respective tournaments will see one Gallagher Premiership versus PRO14 fixture in the Heineken Challenge Cup (Sale visiting Scarlets) and six more in the Challenge Cup, including Flannery’s Harlequins hosting Ulster in a late-night Sunday kickoff.   

Zebre vs Bath, London Irish vs Cardiff Blues, Ospreys vs Newcastle, Dragons vs Northampton and Leicester vs Connacht are the other matches on the Premiership versus PRO14 schedule.

“I know that Ulster are very fit and they will test us to match their work rate around the corner and they have some real game-breakers,” said Flannery. “The Irish sides in the PRO14 are super fit and do the little things really well for 80 minutes. “People look at the PRO14 as not being as competitive as the Premiership and this season the PRO14 has not been competitive outside the Irish teams whatsoever. It’s been the worst I have seen. But the Irish system works well.”

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Ulster boss Dan McFarland has described Harlequins as the strongest team left in the Challenge Cup but Flannery countered that claim. “I would say that Ulster are the strongest team in the competition! Dan is probably pissed off that the PRO14 was called off early this season and didn’t get a chance at knockout rugby. He will be gunning for this game very hard. Ulster were in a s*** place before Dan came in and I felt really bad for everyone. Dan has come in and turned the club around. I used to pick his brains when I was with Munster.”

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