We are just two rounds into the Heineken Cup, so it is a bit early in the day to get carried away, but at this stage Ireland are the most successful country with the highest win ratio.
With four teams in the tournament Ireland have won six of their eight games. Munster and Connacht have both lost one game. But Ulster and Leinster are just two of three teams in the tournament that have won both their opening games. This gives Ireland a success rate of 75%, which is in keeping with Ireland’s consistent success in the Heineken Cup.
The next most successful country is France. With seven teams representing France they were involved in fourteen matches of which they won eight. Toulouse are the other team along with Ulster and Leinster to have won both opening pool games. This gives France a success rate of 62%, which includes Racing Metro’s draw with Llanelli. To be fair to the French, with seven teams in the competition, Pool 4 contains two French teams (Clermont and Racing Metro) and as they have played each other in Round 1, it skews their success rate.
The next most successful country is Scotland. With just two teams in the tournament, both Edinburgh and Glasgow have won one game and lost one game. This gives Scotland a success rate of 50%. This may be somewhat of a surprise to some. But Glasgow’s form has been excellent all season and Edinburgh surprised Munster in Round 1.
Next up is England with six teams. Each English team has lost one game and Harlequins are all but statistically eliminated at this early stage having lost both pool games. Their return of just five wins from twelve games gives the English teams a success rate of just 42%. When you consider it was 2007 when Wasps were the last English team to win the Heineken Cup and Ireland and France have dominated the tournament since then. It looks like England continues to underperform in Europe.
Another country that continues to underperform in the Heineken is Wales. When you factor in their success in recent years in the 6 Nations, it is hard to believe a Welsh team has never won the Heineken Cup. What’s even more surprising is Cardiff have been the only Welsh team to ever reach a Heineken final and that was way back in the first final in 1996. Their current record is just two wins from six games. Llanelli are undefeated, but did draw one of their games with Racing Metro. The Ospreys like Harlequins have two losses and will almost certainly not reach the play-offs. Overall at this early stage, Wales have a success rate of just 40%, so the odds of a Welsh team winning the Heineken looks as slim as ever.
Finally the Italians, like the Scottish, have just two teams in the tournament. But unfortunately both Treviso and Zebre have yet to register a win in the first two rounds. Fairly or unfairly, a pool that contains an Italian team, is always regarded as an easier pool to emerge from. The fact that the Italian teams have a 0% success rate after the first two rounds just adds weight to that opinion.
It is early days yet and there’s still a lot of rugby to be played. But the initial indicators are that the Irish and French are likely to continue to dominate the Heineken Cup again this year.