Which sides would make a 12-team European rugby union Super League?
The sporting headlines this weekend have been dominated by a highly controversial bid to launch a twelve-team European Super League in football.
While not quite on the same scale, rugby has not been averse to introducing its own shake-ups to leagues and competitions over the years, although this is an avenue not yet explored.
But that does not mean such a Super League could not, theoretically at least, occur in the future. In the unlikely event of such a move, here are twelve teams that could make the league, taking into account their history as well as recent success.
Arguably the giant of all giants in European rugby, there is no doubt Toulouse belong in this league. With four European titles (tied with Leinster) and a record 20 French titles, both form and history are on Toulouse’s side.
Leinster have dominated the Guinness PRO14 since its inception, certainly over the past ten years, while also adding four stars to their jersey from their European exploits.
They may not be at Europe’s top table this season for off-field reasons, but Saracens have established themselves as one of the titans of the game in over the past decade.
The current Heineken Champions Cup winners (for a few more weeks) and Gallagher Premiership winners Exeter Chiefs may not have the history to match the other teams in this league, but they have become a powerhouse in Europe in recent years.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 19, 2021
With only three Challenge Cup titles and two French titles, ASM Clermont Auvergne do not rival their counterparts in terms of silverware. But they have three runners-up medals in Europe’s elite competition over the past decade.
They may not necessarily have recent history on their side, as they have seen rivals Leinster eclipse them in recent years, but some of European rugby’s greatest moments are imbued with Munster heroics.
Much like ASM Clermont, Racing 92 do not have European titles to fall back on, and they only have one Top 14 title in the professional era, coming in 2016. But they have made three of the past five Champions Cup finals.
After experiencing some dark days in 2012 as they almost went into administration, Wasps have grown in power since then, reaching the Premiership final twice, including last season’s showcase. They still haven’t matched their glory days of the 2000s, where they won two Heineken Cups and four Premierships, but their history speaks for itself.
They may not have torn up any trees in Europe or France over the past five years (although they reached two Top 14 finals), but Toulon’s brief domination of the continent between 2013 and 2015 earn them a place in this league.
It may seem unfair that a team like Glasgow Warriors would keep out a side like Ulster from this league, but this allows representation across Europe. The Warriors did win the PRO14 in 2015 and were runners-up in 2019.
In terms of Welsh representation, the Ospreys have had more success in the professional era, but the Scarlets’ success has come more recently, which just gives them the edge.
Including Leicester Tigers in this league may be controversial as their record in recent years is nothing to boast about, and they have even found themselves in a relegation scrap in the Premiership, but their history and name alone puts them in the conversation in a Super League.
La Rochelle may be the new kids on the block in terms of European rugby with very few honours to their name. But as they currently stand joint top of the Top 14 and await Leinster in the Champions Cup semi-final, their reputation could be starkly different in a matter of weeks.
Ulster are one of a few sides, alongside the likes of Bath and Northampton Saints, who experienced Heineken Cup success in the early days of the competition. They would all have a legitimate claim to be in the competition but Ulster may shade it after making the PRO14 final in 2020.
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