Pro 12 league features fast and furious rugby.
Rugby union teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy compete annually in the Pro 12 League. The Pro 12 is one of the three professional leagues in Europe with the Aviva Premiership in England and the Top 14 in France.
The tournament we now call the Pro 12 was first held in 2001 and was known as the Celtic League as it drew club teams from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In 2006, Irish brewers Magners sponsored the event and it was called the Magners League. 2010 saw the inclusion of the Italian sides and new sponsors RaboDirect came on board in 2011 and the name set on Pro12 to reflect the wider spread of the countries involved. Since 2014 it has been sponsored by Guiness.
Held between September and May, each of the 12 Pro 12 teams play each other home and away. In recent years the format has been changed from a top of the table winner to a play-off format.
Pro 12 Teams
|Benetton Treviso||Italy||Stadio Comunale di Monigo|
|Cardiff Blues||Wales||Cardiff City Stadium & Cardiff Arms Park|
|Glasgow Warriors||Scotland||Firhill Stadium|
|Leinster||Ireland||RDS Arena & Aviva Stadium|
|Munster||Ireland||Thomond Park & Musgrave Park|
|Newport Gwent Dragons||Wales||Rodney Parade|
|Scarlets||Wales||Parc y Scarlets|
|Zebre||Italy||Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi|
Pro 12 Winners
Ireland are the most successful country with seven Pro 12 titles for Leinster (4), Munster (3), and Ulster (1). Welsh sides Ospreys and Scarlets have five titles between them and Scotland had their first victory in 2014/15 with Glasgow Warriors.
The first teams to compete came from Ireland (Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster), Scotland (Edinburgh Reivers and Glasgow) and Wales (Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Ebbw Vale, Llanelli, Neath, Newport, Pontypridd and Swansea).
Irish teams dominated, claiming 3 semi final places with Leinster winning the first title against Munster in a close game.
Leinster failed to make the quarter finals so Munster took their first title, beating Neath in Cardiff.
Restructuring of the nations leagues meant that there were now 12 teams (4 Irish, 3 Scottish and 5 Welsh teams) playing 22 matches in all. The new team structure and format suited the Welsh side and the Scarlets beat Ulster to the title.
The timings of the league were changed to prevent top stars missing matches to International competitions such as the Rugby World Cup and the Six Nations which had happened in the previous season. There were still issues with training for international matches impacting on the schedules with Irish sides fielding A teams but still managing to claim two of the top three places. The Welsh claimed back to back wins with the Ospreys victory.
The last kick in the last minute of the last game won the title for Ulster. Leinster were the team to miss out despite beating Edinburgh in their final match. This was not to be the last time Leinster were the bridesmaids.
Landsdowne Road, the home of Irish Rugby saw record crowds for the final match played at the stadium. ‘The Last Stand’, saw Leinster take on Ulster in front of 48,000 fans. The title was won on the last day with Leinster again losing after defeat to the Blues’ and Ospreys taking the title with a win at Borders.
Leinster finally broke their last day jinx which had seen them lose the previous two championships when they won the title with one match to spare.
Despite a strong showing from the Ospreys, Munster proved hard to beat, losing only 4 matches on the way to the title. Another Irish side also had success, with Leinster’s first win in the Heineken Cup.
In the first year to feature a play-off for the title, Leinster defeated Munster to set up a final against the Ospreys who had beaten Glasgow. It had been five years since the Swansea side had won in Dublin but the Welsh side took the title.
Italian teams Aironi and Treviso joined the Pro 12 league but it was the Irish sides dominated with Munster coming out on top against Leinster who had won the Heineken Cup in dramatic fashion the week before.
Leinster may have won the battle with a 10 point advantage on their nearest rivals in the season but Ospreys won the war in the ply-offs with a dramatic late one point win against the Irish champions. Legendary Welsh winger Shane Williams scored in what was his last club game.
Old rivalries resurfaced as Ulster faced Leinster to claim the title with the previous season’s defeated finalists claiming their first title in five years.
It was back to back victories for Leinster as they said farewell to club legends Leo Cullen and Brian O’Driscoll. A hard fought victory saw them eventually comfortably defeat rising stars Glasgow Warriors under coach Gregor Townsend.
Spurred on by defeat the Glasgow Warriors beat Munster to claim the first title by a Scottish club in the championship.