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Heineken Cup
How does the Leinster 'dynasty' rank?
ESPN Staff
May 20, 2012
Crusaders skipper Todd Blackadder and scrum-half Justin Marshall pose with the Super 12 trophy, Highlanders v Crusaders, Super 12 final, Carisbrook, May 30 1999.
Do Leinster's achievements make them a more dominant side than the Crusaders side that claimed three straight Super Rugby titles at the end of the last century? © Getty Images
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Leinster talisman Brian O'Driscoll hailed his side's latest Heineken Cup triumph as just the latest step towards creating a "dynasty".

Many will argue that they are a long way down that road already thanks to a third European title in just four years and they also stand on the brink of a notable double with the Ospreys waiting in the final of the RaboDirect PRO12 next weekend.

They are a great side no doubt, and their recent dominance of the European stage suggests they have strong claims to the title of the greatest side of the modern game.

The thrilling manner in which they have swept all before them will only strengthen their case but we all know that this is a results business. Where do you think they rank alongside the other great sides of the professional era?

Leinster

Heineken Cup: 2009, 2011, 2012,
Celtic League: 2001

The Dublin-based side flirted with success by taking the inaugural Celtic League crown in 2001 but it proved to be a false dawn as they failed to build on that success. A second Celtic crown in the 2007-08 season and that would prove to be the springboard to greater things. Australian Michael Chieka coached the province to the Heineken Cup title the following season but he had made way for Joe Schmidt by the time they reached the European summit once again two years later. And it was the Kiwi's 'pursuit of excellence' that orchestrated their latest stunning triumph with the potential of another domestic title awaiting them next weekend.

Leicester

Heineken Cup: 2000-01, 2001-02
Courage League/Premiership: 1987-88, 1994-95, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10

A model of consistency and success, Leicester have been a near-constant presence at the business end of the northern hemisphere season since the game turned professional. The Tigers boast an unrivalled record on the domestic front - a nine-title run that has featured more than one generation of players. But arguably their peak came at the turn of the century when they secured back-to-back Heineken Cup titles having already claimed the Premiership glory on both occasions. They returned to Europe's showpiece event only to be thwarted by English rivals Wasps and since then they have failed to transfer their Premiership dominance to the continental stage.

Toulouse

Heineken Cup: 1995-96, 2002-03, 2004-05, 2009-10
Bouclier de Brennus: 18 times including 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2008, 2011

The French giants have claimed Europe's top prize on an unrivalled four occasions, and contested the final on a record six times, but the 14-year gap between their first and last triumph leaves question marks over their claims to being the most dominant European side of all time. Interestingly, only their first Heineken Cup triumph was preceded by domestic honours offering perhaps an indication of the toll of a quest for both the Bouclier de Brennus and the Heineken Cup.

Munster

Heineken Cup winner 2005-06, 2007-08
Celtic League winners 2002-03, 2008-09, 2010-11

Few can rival Munster's consistency in Europe since the start of the Heineken Cup. They graced the knock-out stages every year between 1999 and 2010 - a glorious run that included an emotional first title in 2006 having twice fallen at the final hurdle. Another victory would follow two years later and while that run came to an end last season, they were back in the mix this term. The dominant side in Irish rugby for so much of the modern era, Leinster and now Ulster have emerged from their sizeable shadow.

Crusaders

Super Rugby: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2008

The most successful side in Super Rugby history, the Christchurch-based franchise laid claim to an incredible seven titles in 11 years thanks to an incredible wealth of both coaching and playing talent. They were arguably at their peak at the turn of the century with three straight titles - all three of which were won having ceded home advantage to their final rivals. That period also included to other final appearances that ended in defeat and most recently they were pipped to the crown once again last year.

Wasps

Heineken Cup: 2003-04, 2006-07
Courage League/Premiership: 1989-90, 1996-97, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2007-08

Wasps emerged as a real challenge to Leicester's dominance of the English pro game a decade ago with a glorious run of form, under first Warren Gatland and then Ian McGeechan that included three straight Premiership titles. The second of those domestic triumphs was trumped by their first Heineken Cup crown later the same season - a dramatic victory over Toulouse. A second Heineken Cup title would follow three years later, sealed with victory over fierce rivals Leicester, but they have since failed to keep pace in England and in Europe.

Bulls

Super Rugby: 2007, 2009, 2010
Currie Cup (Blue Bulls): 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 (shared), 2009

The Pretoria-based side reached the southern hemisphere summit in 2007 with Bryan Habana sealing a dramatic victory over South African rivals in 2007. A golden generation players including the likes of lock Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn would go on to inspire further titles in 2009 and 2010 that saw them emerge as genuine rivals to the Crusaders' title of the most dominant Super Rugby force. That success was mirrored on the domestic front by the Blue Bulls who claimed five Currie Cup titles (one of them shared) in an eight-year period.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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