Over the course of my career, I was fortunate enough to referee seven European Cup finals, three Challenge Cup finals and some of the biggest games you could ever hope to be involved in.

I could sit here all day reminiscing, with taking charge of that epic semi-final between Munster and Leinster in 2009 one of the standout moments for me. Played in front of more than 82,000 fans - then a world record attendance for a club game - it felt more like a Test match and is certainly one of the fondest memories of my time as a referee.

Saracens v Toulouse at Wembley in front of 60,000, Toulouse against Leinster in front of another sell-out 60,000 stadium. Thomond Park for Munster v Wasps with the ‘The Fields of Athenry’ filling the cauldron of a unique atmosphere in one of Europe’s great stadiums. These were big, big occasions and the list goes on and on.

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Of course, you also have some of the great European campaigns that were played out here in Wales, from Cardiff’s heartbreaking loss to Leicester, also in 2009, to the big sell-out crowds at Stradey Park and Parc y Scarlets and the Ospreys going against some of the big guns in Europe. There are plenty of very memorable matches to look back on.

But with all those great memories in mind, looking at this weekend’s European action makes me feel a bit down. It is a real shame that, because of where we are with the Welsh regions, we’re just not part of the big occasions anymore.

Of course, the Ospreys are involved in the Challenge Cup this weekend and I’m sure it will be a full house at Brewery Field as they host Sale. Hopefully the fact they are playing in Bridgend will only add to the atmosphere.

But that said, the whole competition is lacking something now. It’s certainly not what it used to be. European games used to be a real spectacle and something that would have the spectators out on the terraces, but it all seems to have lost a bit of romance now.

We’re seeing now that some teams, even those still very much in the mix in these competitions, are not putting out their first-choice players for some fixtures, which is a real shame when you’re wanting these games to be as competitive as possible.

The format has changed too and I don’t see why. Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter made headlines this week by criticising World Rugby for tinkering with the laws of the game, and in that same spirit, I do think that if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s just not working for me now and I think it’s contributed to the loss of the romance that used to surround the competition. It worked well before, so why change it?

I remember Munster travelling to a semi-final in Bordeaux and around 12,000 fans going out there to support them. The same with Wasps in Toulouse, there were thousands and thousands of home supporters going over to France. That level of excitement around European competition seems to have gone now, and understandably so.

Of course, from a Welsh perspective, there are other issues to worry about first. The regions are simply not competing at the top end in the URC and in Europe and we’re missing out on these kinds of occasions as a result.

As I’ve said, I hope Ospreys fans enjoy their match with Sale and it would be a huge boost for the region if they get through, but it would be fair to say there is not the same level of excitement around it as there once was.

Back when the likes of Hooky (James Hook) and Shane (Williams) were playing, there was a huge amount of hype and expectation surrounding these fixtures. Now, it all feels a bit flat.

People will be split on the 25-cap rule but I think the majority of people who have been asked want to scrap it. The only thing I’ll say is for the good of Welsh rugby as a whole, from Test level all the way down to the community game, you need strong competitive regions and sell-out stadiums - and if you don’t have your best players playing in Wales, the regions are going to suffer, the crowds are going to suffer and I think the game will suffer. This is quite evident now.

There are plenty of people who think that scrapping the rule will be an easy fix, but you’ve got to think of the bigger picture. You will lose control of the players and prep for Test matches will be more difficult. England, at the moment, keep their stars playing in the Premiership. The stadiums are packed and the atmosphere is wonderful. You’re not going to see the stadiums packed out in Wales again if our best players are playing somewhere else.

I was reviewing Italian referee Gianluca Gnecchi’s performance in the Scarlets v Glasgow game last weekend. The Scarlets were poor as the scoreboard reflected but the stadium was empty. That’s not what you want to see and I don’t think such an issue would be solved by scrapping any kind of cap rule.

In my humble opinion, it will only make it worse. Whatever we need to do to keep the best players here for the good of the whole of Welsh rugby, we need to pull together and do it.

Good luck to the Ospreys this weekend, I’m sure it will be a great game. But I for one hope that there is a corner to be turned and that the Welsh regions being involved in classic European ties is not just a fond memory, but part of a brighter future.