The Champions Cup will now take a back-seat in the Irish sporting conversation.  

Mass interest in European club rugby in this country is not at the stage where it can survive an absence of Irish involvement.

We have seen some evidence of this.

The knockout phase of the 2015-16 competition, when all the Irish provinces were dumped out in the pool phase, received equivalent levels of media coverage in Ireland to the baseball World Series or the Aussie Rules playoffs. 

In some respects, Leinster being dunted on their backside by Saracens is not that surprising.   

Saracens have been holed below the waterline in their domestic league since those mammoth points deductions - a total of 105 points - were imposed in the first half of the 2019-20 season, a punishment for breaches of the Premiership salary cap over a number of years. 

This sanction might have led some fans to assume that the European champions’ morale would be irreparably damaged and that they wouldn't have the heart or the stomach for the remainder of the season.

Their unsteady progress through the pool phase, which they had cantered through in previous years, may have initially supported this narrative.

But no. 

Once the date was pencilled in for the Leinster quarter-final, Saracens, the rest of their season already written off as a tedious irrelevance, decided that this game was all that mattered and immediately shot into lifting-weights-whilst-staring-grimly-at-the-calendar mode.

Alex Goode scores Saracens' only try in their 25-17 win in Dublin

If we learned anything from the 2019 Rugby World Cup, it was to always be wary of teams who have the time and space to prime themselves for 'the big day.’ (The corollary of that was the difficulty of backing up one of these ‘big-day’ performances.)

Witness England’s demolition of New Zealand in the semi-final and then South Africa’s wipe-out of them in the final.

Saracens, still on paper one of the finest club teams ever assembled, brought a fury and resolve to Saturday's encounter that Leinster, their mindset perhaps softened by win after win (after win after win...) in the Pro 14, couldn’t handle.

Leo Cullen hinted at this in his post-match comments.

"Off the back of winning the final last week, does it take away a little bit of that edge off us versus that edge that they have because they know it’s their sole focus?" he wondered.  

"So does winning a final lead to a little bit of complacency?"

The weekend’s fare certainly hasn’t done much for the image of the Pro 14. Large parts of the UK rugby press already regard it as an offensively low-stakes, rinky-dink affair while the Irish public tend to greet provincial success in the tournament – unless it’s a heart-warming underdog story like Connacht in 2016 - with a shrug.

Leinster winning the Pro 14 is by now the default assumption and outside their hardcore support, no one is really interested.  

More worryingly for Irish rugby, the game on Saturday was further evidence of a damaging pattern.

It’s hard to get through a rugby article without referencing ‘physicality’ these days. (Perhaps some imaginative scribe will manage it one day). This is understandable. Winning the ‘physical battle’ basically seems to be the alpha and the omega of winning big rugby matches in the professional era.

To the lay observer, an iron law now applies in rugby union. Once the big lads up front can demonstrate that they’re able to bludgeon their way through the opposition pack at will, then the opposing team may as well go home.

Since the beginning of 2019, Irish teams have found themselves unable to cope with English sides in the physical sphere.

It all goes back to that fateful first game in the 2019 Six Nations. Irish rugby was cock-of-the-walk at the end of 2018 and some bookmaker jokesters were setting up pre-match stalls in Ballsbridge offering England fans the ‘consolation prize’ of Irish citizenship ahead of the game.

By the end of that match, Ireland were, in Joe Schmidt’s words, "broken", their confidence shattered by the emphatic manner of the loss. Though we didn’t know it yet, they wouldn’t recover for the rest of 2019 and the World Cup was an even bigger disaster than usual.

Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade embrace after the latter's try against Ireland in February 2019

In the spring, Saracens proceeded to bump off both Munster and Leinster, en route to a third Champions Cup title in four years.

In August ’19, we witnessed a Twickenham hammering worthy of the late 90s, which set off massive alarm bells ahead of the World Cup. That mood of foreboding was ultimately justified.

And most recently, just before the coronavirus officially landed on Irish shores, we had the 2020 Six Nations humbling in Twickers, when Ireland were flattered to lose by a mere 12 points.  

The days when Ireland were one of England’s chief bogey teams seem a long way away now. (It’s still the case that Ireland lead in the Six Nations head-to-head in the 21st century).

But the Itojes and the Vunipolas and the Sincklers evidently approach games against Ireland with some relish. This youthful and snarling crop of England players - strong England teams always have that imperious snarl - appear to take great joy in subdueing Irish teams. 

One wouldn't want to over-stress the similarities between Leinster and Ireland's failings. The former, for example, were impugned in some quarters for kicking the ball too little at the weekend, not a charge that was ever levied against Joe Schmidt's Ireland. 

But in terms of being brutalised in the scrum and the front-five exchanges and their increasing frailty in the aerial exchanges, they did suffer from the same problems that have afflicted Ireland against English sides of late. 

The evidence of the past 21 months is that England have hit on a winning formula against Ireland and Irish sides are currently helpless to do much about it.