Cross-border league to resume with series of derbies

Guinness Pro14 aims for August return

The Guinness Pro14 is aiming to return in August with a series of derbies.

The competition has set a target return date of Saturday 22 August across all five countries involved, with a condensed format of two weekends of derbies followed by semi-finals and the final.

The two teams in each of Italy, Scotland and South Africa will play back-to-back derby matches, while the fixtures for the four sides in Ireland and Wales are still to be confirmed.

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne last month revealed that the four Irish provinces – Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster – were set to play derby fixtures behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium.

The matches postponed before the league was suspended due to Covid-19 – Zebre v Ospreys and Benetton v Ulster – will be recorded as 0-0 draws, with all four teams receiving two points. You can see the latest conference tables here.

The abbreviated format sees a reducton in regular-season games from 21 to 15, with the top two teams in each conference qualifying for the semi-finals on Saturday 5 September. Pro14 organisers will await the latest information from the governments involved before deciding on a venue for the final, which will take place on Saturday 12 September.

Related: The challenges of rugby’s return to training explained

Tournament director David Jordan said: “Safety has been, and will continue to be, the highest priority as we look to activate our plans to restart the 2019-20 season. We are very fortunate to be in a position where everyone involved is confident that we can conclude the season on the field of play.

 

Pro14 aims for August return

Ground force: The Aviva Stadium is set to host inter-provincial derbies (Getty Images)

“The work and diligence of our leading medical personnel at our unions, our clubs, World Rugby and key stakeholders to get us to this point has been immense. Operating across five territories often brings different complexities to the Guinness Pro14 but our unions have worked hard to bring proposals to their governments so we may put plans into action.”

As for the 2020-21 season, organisers have identified 3 October as the provisional date for the first round of fixtures.

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