Chairman David Buttress has welcomed the launch of the United Rugby Championship – praising the format and quality of teams that will create an elite club competition across two hemispheres.
The United Rugby Championship will launch this September as the top clubs from South Africa (Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls) combine with the Guinness PRO14 to create a world-class 16-team league.
Teams from five of rugby’s elite nations – Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales and South Africa - will transform the competition into a league of super clubs.
All 16 teams will now be ranked from 1 to 16 in a single-standing league table to decide who reaches the quarter-finals. Additionally, regional pools will exist to ensure home and away derby fixtures are played.
“I’m excited about the league and the new format of the season,” said Buttress.
“The format means that our best players will be around a lot more as there won’t be an overlap with international fixtures now.
“It will mean that we can have our best players more often than we have in the past so I’m delighted about it.
“The quality of the sides coming in from South Africa means the United Rugby Championship will have a very strong line-up of players and teams.
“That has to be a good thing for the long-term development of interest in the league.
“I’m also excited by the regional pools,” he added, commenting on a mechanism to ensure all home and away derby games are played while also recognising a champion with Heineken Champions Cup qualification.
“Creating the regional pools whch generate a European qualification has a real substance to it.
“There is a lot of spice in Welsh derbies and this adds a lot to it. It has put a structure around what is already one of the most important parts of the league season for supporters.”
The new United Rugby Championship will ensure less to conflict with international weekends, one league table will be in place and a full quarter-final round of four games will increase knock-out games from five to seven.
The format of the United Rugby Championship has also been agreed for at least the next five years.
“It made the best of the nations that will participate in this league,” added Buttress.
“We have five nations contributing to the United Rugby Championship and if you think about them they are all strong global rugby countries.
“The great thing about the format, other than the stabilisation, is about making the most of those five countries.
“I like the idea of 18 games and then the knock-out phase. That is exciting for supporters and also keeps teams interested right until to the latter stages which, for me, feels very important.
“Crucially, there is very little overlap with the international calendar, compared to where it used to be, which is the most radical and exciting change that has been made.
“It genuinely allows the best players to be on show for their clubs more frequently.
“For the next five years we have a very clear and stable format that supporters can easily understand and can get excited about the fact that the championship will go on longer because of the way it has been structured.
“There is interest in it for everyone, whether it is in your Welsh regional pool or whether it is in the main league. Those two things will compliment each other nicely.”
We have five nations contributing to the United Rugby Championship and if you think about them they are all strong global rugby countries...