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Williams welcomes play-off plan

By Gavin Mairs

Ulster coach Matt Williams has backed the proposal for play-offs format to be introduced to the Magners League.

The issue was raised recently by Magners League chief executive David Jordan in response by Llanelli coach Phil Davies for a top-four play-off to breath life into the final weeks of the tournament.

As things currently stand, Leinster, with a 12-point lead, are runaway leaders and odds-on on to be crowned champions even with four games still to go.

The Magners League is the only professional rugby league in world rugby not to have an end-of-season play-off finale, although it did flirt briefly at the end of the 2004/05 season.

Jordan has intimated they will likely be introduced for the 2009-10 season when the EDF Anglo-Welsh Cup agreement between the English and Welsh clubs comes to an end.

Although the EDF Cup has proved a popular tournament, under the terms of the new accord between the RFU and Premier League Rugby, the weekends currently set aside for the tournament will now be pencilled in for Premiership fixtures to free up England players for autumn and Six Nations windows.

That in turn will give the Magners League a more even distribution of fixtures and also frees up weekends for an end-of-season finale.

The key for a successful tournament is to ensure that there remains interest for as many teams as possible for as long as possible and a play-off, whether for the top four or top three, is the only option available.

Williams for one is an advocate.

"With my background, I can't understand why you wouldn't do it," said Williams. "That's the way we do things in Australia and while I am aware of the different traditions, I think they are really exciting and add another dimension to it, especially when you get to this stage of the season.

"There should be a trophy for the (league) winners and another one for that (the play-offs).

"It is a cultural issue. People are used to a league but I think play-offs are fantastic. All our Australian competitons have had that for over a century."

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