Cross-border league expected 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 IRFU chief executive Philip Browne has revealed that the Pro14 has targeted the weekend of 22-23 August for resumption, with the four Irish provinces – Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster – set to play derby fixtures behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium.

It is thought derbies will also take place in the other countries involved in the competition – Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales – before the season is concluded with the semi-finals and final phase in September. It is then hoped the 2020-21 season will kick off in October.

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The season was suspended in March due to coronavirus and the fact it is a cross-border competition makes it more difficult as different countries may lift restrictions relating to the pandemic at different times.

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The IRFU’s proposals are with the Irish government. Browne said: “We have set target dates of 22 and 23 August for a return to play with the staging of Guinness Pro14 derby fixtures between the provinces at the Aviva Stadium behind closed doors, as part of the completion of the Guinness Pro14 2019-20 season.

Pro14 aims for August return

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

“In these times these matches are not just rugby fixtures, they are a beacon of hope for the entire country. A step, albeit a small one, in Ireland’s opening up to an environment for which the entire country yearns, deserves and has sacrificed so much to win back.

“We very much look forward to being able to play our part in delivering this much needed tonic for the country.”

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