SCARLETS head coach Simon Easterby has bemoaned the Welsh regions’ “bleak” showing in Europe and warned they must improve if Wales are to compete at international level.
The Scarlets, Ospreys and Blues have mustered only one Heineken Cup win between them this season, and all three sides are effectively eliminated from the competition after just three fixtures.
Struggling to compete on and off the field with their European rivals, the extent of the regions’ financial plight was revealed in a recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers commissioned by the Welsh Rugby Union.
But Easterby does not believe this season’s underachievement can be attributed to monetary failings alone, insisting that the regions must take responsibility for their own performances.
“It’s really disappointing,” he said.
“We’re all probably feeling a bit sorry for ourselves and feeling like things could have gone differently, but it is what it is unfortunately.
“There are some circumstances for the losses in general in the game but, ultimately, we haven’t been good enough.
“To only have won one game throughout the regions in Europe is pretty bleak.
“If we want to be competitive in the international game, I think the regions have to be competitive at the highest level, and Europe is the highest level.”
The nature of seedings for the Heineken Cup means the competition could become an even tougher proposition for the Welsh sides in future seasons.
The Scarlets and Ospreys were both third seeds for this term’s tournament, and the Blues are set to drop from the second group of seeds following another dismal European campaign this year.
Further losses could see the regions’ ranking drop again and, considering the fact that the Ospreys and Scarlets already had to face the likes of Leinster, Clermont, Toulouse and Leicester this season, the future looks grim.
“The good sides who get through to the quarters and the semis will get stronger because they will consistently be the top seeds,” said Easterby.
“But Leinster won it (the Heineken Cup) and still got Clermont, so you’re still going to get hard groups.
“We’ve got to be harder on ourselves to say we could have won a couple of those games.
“We didn’t, and that’s a fact, but we had plenty of opportunities we didn’t take last weekend against Exeter.
“Things can be quite different in games and, unfortunately, we’ve come off the back of three defeats without being always outplayed.”