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Published: 09:39 | 14/9/16

D'Arcy fears for Irish provinces

Gordon D'Arcy fears Ireland's four provinces will struggle to reach the knockout stages of the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Irish provinces dominated European competition from 2005 to 2012 with Leinster winning three titles to Munster's two, but no Irish side qualified for the quarter-finals last year as French and English clubs stamped their authority on the competition.

Disagreements over the structure of the competition resulted in the Heineken Cup being replaced by the Champions Cup with the top seven teams qualifying based on their performance in the PRO12.

D'Arcy believes the restructuring has made it tougher for Irish teams to do well and he believes it will be 'nearly impossible' for any of the provinces to reach the knockout stages this year.

“It is nearly impossible to get out of your group now. Most of these groups could be over before Christmas," D’Arcy is quoted as saying in the Irish Independent.

"The days of fighting until the last round, to my mind, are largely gone. They have made it largely impossible to qualify.

"There was a serious turn around in the power struggle. The English and the French wanted more control over it, which is exactly what they have got, but it is almost impossible for the Irish and the Scottish and the Welsh teams to deal with the power game of the England and the French teams.

"The budgets, the size of the squads – the goalposts have changed dramatically. The English and the French teams have gotten bigger and wealthier and the Celtic sides have largely stood still."

Meanwhile, D'Arcy has welcomed the appointment of Stuart Lancaster to the Leinster coaching staff.

The former England head coach has joined the province as a senior coach for the 2016-17 season. and D'Arcy believes it is a good move for the Blues.

"If you look at Stuart Lancaster and take away the World Cup when his tenure ended, you would say he's a very successful coach," D'Arcy explained.

"If you take the Lions as the top job and international rugby as the next high-pressure situation, he has a lot of experience in that environment. That can only be a positive for the organisation, he's coming in with a different set of eyes.

"It's a sign of strength in character from him that he's willing to come in and work in an organisation under quite a young head coach.

"Leo's strength in character goes without saying. I wouldn't worry about a power struggle. HE's on a nine-month contract. I think it's a win-win for everybody, if Leinster do well."

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