Rugby's Guinness Pro12 starts this weekend and it promises to be a more genuine contest than in years gone by.

Irish, Scottish and, in particular, Welsh administrators may have made a grievous error in submitting to English and French pressure to change the way Northern Hemisphere provincial rugby is run, but the reduction from 10 of the 12 contestants qualifying automatically for Europe to seven will certainly mean there will be considerably less squad management in the weeks and months ahead.

The reduction in the number of teams in Europe's top tournament from 24 to 20 was as clearly designed to undermine the Celtic nations, and in particular the Irish by forcing them to field their top players more often in the Pro12, as it was shamefully disrespectful to the work done by the previous organisers and sponsors to create the most vibrant competition in world rugby.

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It was supremely ironic that this whole sorry episode took place against a background of the French, through Toulon in particular, and English having finally found a way of harnessing their far greater resources to end Irish dominance of the then Heineken Cup.

Just what has gone down the sink with the bath water remains to be seen, but the evidence of the lack of planning that went on amid the politicking is provided by the way those charged with setting up the new 20-team competition have had to ask the organisation that ran the old 24-team tournament - described as "not fit for purpose" by those who manoeuvred the change - to run it for them this season.

In among all of this, Guinness, the company that many of us thought should have been backing the Celtic League when it was formed rather than its English counterpart, and mainstream television channels denied access to England's Aviva Premiership, have finally decided that the Pro12 is worth investing in. All of which means that its profile should be raised and winning the title should carry more prestige than has been the case in the past. That can only be good news for Scottish rugby and, in particular, Glasgow Warriors, who go into this year's Pro12 as favourites to triumph in the eyes of many.

Having contested four of the five play-offs since the Grand Final was introduced to round off the season, the ever-increasing investment of the last three seasons means that tag is justified and it will be a huge disappointment if Scottish rugby does not finally pick up its first piece of silverware this century in cross-border competition.

In spite of all the preceding reservations, the only real measure of whether progress has been made will be on the European stage in the new European Rugby Champions Cup and the RBS 6 Nations.

The increased competitiveness of the Pro12 may mean the gulf is not as great as in the days when the Ospreys were winning the Celtic League and Pro12 with some regularity, but were being lambasted by observers in Wales for their Heineken Cup failures.

Having finished at the bottom of their European pool in each of the last two seasons - and got away with it as Scottish supporters and pundits were mesmerised by the spin surrounding their efforts in the domestic tournament - Glasgow cannot do so again. Edinburgh, meanwhile, should at the very least reach the knockout stages of the secondary competition, as well as ensuring that Scotland has two teams in the top contest next season.