So after a season where more headlines were made off the pitch rather than on it, Ulster, the 1999 Heineken Cup kingpins and forerunners of Ireland’s glorious history in the competition, will still have a place at the top table of European rugby next season.
Munster head coach Johann van Graan has chosen a virtual second strength team for this evening’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Ulster at Thomond Park while his counterpart Jonno Gibbes goes into the game short two of his most valuable players, full-back Charles Piutau and scrum-half John Cooney.
They said the "vast majority of members" support this and further warn that "many" members have made it clear that failure to do so "will strongly influence their decision on season ticket renewal or their future Kingspan attendance".
As someone who teaches sports law and criminal law in Melbourne, but who lived and lectured in Belfast for 15 years, I followed the trial and acquittal of Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison with deep and obvious interest, writes.
While Ulster’s players and management insist that the focus is entirely on Saturday’s lunchtime clash with Pool 1 leaders La Rochelle, it’s become clearer who will be replacing Christian Leali’ifano when the Wallaby’s short-term contract ends this month.
Veteran wing Tommy Bowe will be the centre of attention as Ulster seek to consolidate their Guinness PRO14 position when they travel to the compact and atmospheric Rodney Parade to face Bernard Jackman’s Dragons this evening.
Ireland, their Six Nations hopes still alive, will enter the white heat of a Friday night appointment at the Principality Stadium with head coach Joe Schmidt trusting his leaders in an unchanged team to keep emotions in check on what promises to be another high-octane showdown with Wales.