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Play-Offs get league leaders’ approval

Guinness PRO12 Editor

13 May 2010

If any side was going to criticise the new Play-Off system on show in the Magners League, surely it would be Leinster.

Under previous rules, the Dubliners would be celebrating by now.

Having finished top of the pile after 18 regular season games, the 2008 champs would have already been crowned Magners League kings once again. But not this time. 

The introduction of the Play-Offs means Michael Cheika’s men must win two more games to claim that honour, yet no one in the Leinster camp is complaining.

The Play-Offs have already been a massive hit with players, coaches and supporters alike, and despite finishing the league season as top dogs, Leinster see no reason tobuck that trend.

“If someone said to you ‘win the league’ and you won it and then they turned and said ‘hang on, you’ve to play these two games to win it’, that’s a different situation to what we’re in,” Leinster scrum-half Eoin Reddan told the Irish Times.

“We’ve known since May last year that we had to win these two games. In this situation it’s just pure excitement.”

This time last year, Munster were the run away winners of the Magners League. In truth, the season was over for most of the 10 competing teams way before the year was supposed to reach its climax.

But this season couldn’t be more different.

Going into the penultimate round of the regular campaign, seven of the 10 teams still had a Play-Off place in their sights.

Even on the final weekend, the make up and locations of the two semi-finals hadn’t been decided until the final whistle blew in an enthralling encounter between Reddan’s Leinster and Edinburgh at the RDS.

No wonder Reddan dismisses any suggestion of player burn out or of potential bad feeling at the move away from a traditional league season.

For the 29-year-old Ireland international, the Play-Offs equal excitement and that can only be good for everyone involved in the game.

“I think it’s great. People keep asking about the long season but it doesn’t come into it for me, you’re always looking forward,” added Reddan. 

“Knowing what we’re aiming for, I think it’s just looking up and on to the end of the year. I don’t feel tired or that it’s been a long season because everything we’ve been playing for has come in these three or four weeks, maybe starting two weeks ago, and going on to the end of the season. 

“It’s two massive games and as a player it’s two more knockout games that might help you in the future if you get to another Heineken Cup quarter-final, semi-final or another Magners League game, or even a World Cup quarter-final or semi-final.

“It’s great for players to be exposed to this. I’m accentuating the positives of it. 

“It’s an exciting end to the season, it’s massive. It’s in the back of your head when you’re playing away at Cardiff in the middle of the Six Nations; you know what you’re playing for and I think now we’re here we need to push on and really produce the goods on Saturday.”