Ospreys and Scarlets reflect on mixed fortunes after opening two rounds of Heineken Cup action
COMEBACKS are all the rage, with Bridget Jones making one and the Clangers also having a stab, while there is talk of Kestrel lager being back on the shelves for the first time in a decade.
But there is a limit to everything and not even the most die-hard Ospreys fan can surely expect his or her team to recover in the Heineken Cup this season after starting the campaign with two defeats and no bonus points.
There can be no way back from such an opening. No side can give Leinster an eight-point start at the pool stage and hope to reach the quarter-finals.
Steve Tandy's team let no-one down with their effort at Northampton on Sunday.
But at the very highest level perspiration carries a team only so far.
A team also needs a dot of inspiration allied to strength in depth and a few stellar overseas players.
You get what you pay for and the common factor among the big hitters in the Heineken Cup is that they all have a sprinkling of exotic, high-class talent from abroad.
Whether it is a 20st prop from Samoa at Toulouse, or a rampaging former New Zealand wing at Clermont Auvergne, or the full United Nations at Toulon, elite imports make a difference, elevating performances to a level less blessed opponents struggle to cope with.
It isn't only about foreigners, either.
Armed with player budgets that can touch £10 million, French clubs are able to build their numbers of outstanding home-produced players, too.
So last weekend against Saracens, Toulouse were able to bring Louis Picamoles off the bench to take over from the outstanding Gillian Galan, a teenage ball-carrier in the Scott Quinnell mould.
Picamoles went on to put in 14 ball carries in 32 minutes.
Saracens could have been forgiven for feeling the visitors had replaced the Incredible Hulk with Superman.
By contrast, Welsh rugby lacks depth, with a low salary cap meaning the regions have no alternative but to try to pursue success on the cheap, and at the very top in Europe such a strategy doesn't work.
Of course, you will get a result to raise eyebrows every now and then, usually when the moon is the Smurfs' favourite colour.
The Blues' victory over Toulon falls into such a category, an outcome that spoke much for the home players' refusal to bow to adversity. But the travellers from the Med were hopelessly off their game, doing nothing to allay the suspicion that they simply don't do poor weather.
If there are people out there who believe the Blues have morphed into a good side overnight, they should look up the meaning of the word 'delusional' in their dictionaries.
But that isn't the point here.
The point is that Welsh rugby isn't operating on a level playing field when it comes to taking on the rest of Europe.
Jonathan Humphreys's argument after last season's pool-stage exit for the Ospreys remains as valid today as it was then. "Welsh expectations are totally unrealistic," said the region's then forwards coach.
"We are the least funded and yet we expect the most.
"Someone justify to me why we should be disappointed.
"We have way less money than everybody else in the competition, that's including the Italians... and we are upset about it?"
In some ways, the Ospreys will no doubt be glad to see the back of the Heineken Cup, especially if it is replaced by a new competition that will offer the chance of a more favourable pool draw.
For several years they have been caught in a vicious cycle of low achievement leading to a brutal group leading to low achievement and another brutal group.
The problems date back to their underachievement in years gone by, when they had a squad littered with big names but struggled to make headway.
If sides are allowed to start any new competition with a clean slate, then at least the former Pro12 champions will have a sliver of hope.
Credit the Scarlets, though — they have defied the odds to top Pool 4 after the opening two rounds of matches. They have done enough over the first fortnight to allow their fans to enjoy the ride and dream for another couple of months.
No-one will expect Simon Easterby's team to return home from Clermont Auvergne in early December with the spoils, so they are in the situation every side likes being in, with nothing to lose, able to give it a thrash and see where it takes them.
Their effort underlines the importance of a good start in the competition.
Beating Harlequins in London in such style would have encouraged the players to believe, and Liam Williams, Scott Williams and the rest of the Williams clan have shown where there's a Will there's a way.
But no-one should allow the West Walians' unbeaten start to the campaign to mask Welsh rugby's plight at professional level. The game here has in some ways returned to where it was circa 1998, with teams pulling in low-cost recruits while attempting to challenge wealthy opponents who can spend them off the park.
The situation will get worse if the regions prove unable to retain their best players.
They desperately need the rugby equivalent of a fairy godmother to come along and lob them each a couple of million quid more to develop their squads.
Sadly, it ain't going to happen. But, hey, the Welsh Rugby Union have increased their turnover since 2006 by 40 per cent.
Three cheers for that.
No doubt the folks at Regional Rugby Wales will throw a party.