Welsh regions still playing catch-up with Irish despite Scarlets’ success

The provinces and their exploits in Europe inspired radical restructuring in Wales but finance and player development hold the regions back

Leinster meet the Scarlets in the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. The ground will be full, as it would be were its capacity closer to Twickenham’s 82,000 than below 52,000. Irish rugby is where the game in Wales aspires to be and Europe was the vehicle that drove them there.

Leinster used the old Lansdowne Road in the early years of the then Heineken Cup in the second half of the 1990s. When they took on Leicester there in 1996, a crowd of 3,500 turned up; in the same year, Munster attracted 1,500 to Musgrave Park for the visit of Milan. At Donnybrook in 1999, 4,500 watched Llanelli defeat Leinster.

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