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Magners League is unique says Johnson

Guinness PRO12 Editor

8 Sep 2010

Ospreys director of coaching Scott Johnson says the Magners League can now claim to be a hugely competitive competition with a ‘different philosophy’ to any other tournament.

Johnson believes the introduction of Italian outfits Benetton Treviso and Aironi Rugby has given even greater credibility to a league clearly on the up.

Innovation and improvement have become a regular occurrence in the Magners League over recent months, with last season’s Play-Off system proving hugely popular with players, coaches and fans alike and the extension to 12 teams looking as if it could be just as successful.

And former Wales and USA coach Johnson is convinced that the new Italian flavour will help the Magners League reach even greater heights.

"I think this is the great strength of the Magners League because we have got so much diversity within our own group," said Johnson, who led the Ospreys to Grand Final glory back in May.

"It's a great credit to the Magners League that we've got new teams in and they've done well first up.

"When you look at the Aviva Premiership and the Top 14 in France, everyone does it their own way whereas we've got this completely different philosophy within our own group and I think that's great for rugby.

"It's great for your coaching and it's great for players. This cosmopolitan feel that we have in the Magners League is fantastic and, going forward, it’s something I'm really looking forward to."

Treviso began life in the Magners League with a stunning comeback win over the Scarlets while Aironi produced a battling performance against European giants Munster in Cork.

And while critics may have been writing off the chances of both sides prior to the start of their new adventure, Johnson insists he always expected Trevsio and Aironi to prove themselves worthy of a spot at the Magners League table.

"I wasn't surprised and I'm glad for the sake of the tournament that we've now got a genuine competitor and for rugby as a whole I think it's wonderful that they're in the tournament," added Johnson, whose Ospreys side host Treviso at the Liberty Stadium in Round 2.

"It sounds disparaging to the Scarlets, but I'm not saying that; I'm saying that it was good for the tournament and good for Treviso.

"So I think it gives us greater credibility. They're in Europe and the Magners League has produced so much good for Europe over the last five or six years and I think that will just make Europe a little more difficult, which is good, too, for the game.

"I think Italian rugby's really on the up. I've watched improvement over the last few years, subtly, and the results probably haven't gone their way.

"But there's genuine talent across the board, they've got more players to pick from and we expect a very physical encounter.

"And for people to think that they're there as just tokenism have got this wrong. We're not going in there light (against Treviso on Friday), that's for sure."