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PRO14 rebranded to the United Rugby Championship as South African sides join

Tournament organisers have confirmed that the new 16-team PRO rugby competition will be called th...



Tournament organisers have confirmed that the new 16-team PRO rugby competition will be called the United Rugby Championship. 

South African clubs the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls will enter the league next season alongside the teams who competed in last year's Guinness PRO14.

It will see the return of a single-standing table with quarter-finals, semi-finals and a grand final at the end of the regular campaign. Under the agreement, the South African sides will be eligible to qualify for European competitions.

The Irish teams will play six games against their inter-pro rivals and then 18 matches home and away against the other sides in the league.

Irish Pool: Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster

Welsh Pool: Dragons, Cardiff Rugby, Ospreys, Scarlets

South African Pool: Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls

Italian & Scottish Pool: Benetton Rugby, Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors, Zebre Rugby Club

Final Series/Play-Offs: One league table will be used to rank teams and after 18 rounds the top eight sides will qualify for the Play-Offs. Teams will be seeded from 1 to 8 and will receive home advantage according to their seeding.

A full round of Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals will take place to produce two teams who will qualify for the Grand Final.

“Fans have always asked more of our league and now we are taking it to new heights," URC chief executive Martin Anayi said. "The United Rugby Championship will see World Cup winners, icons of the Guinness Six Nations, the Rugby Championship and stars of the British & Irish Lions tour turning up the intensity in an exciting new league format.

"Since the origins of the Celtic League in 2001, the vision has been to innovate and evolve in order to create a compelling competition which would challenge our players and teams to be at their very best every single week. Their potential has never been in doubt and now we can provide them with the arena to be the very best.

“Forming the United Rugby Championship will begin to reshape the world of club rugby. We are creating a league that embraces and celebrates difference and where the only way to succeed will be to match the skill and intensity of the international game.

“The arrival of South Africa’s elite teams and the removal of fixtures from international match weekends will make our league stronger across the board. We will see heroes taking on heroes every week in iconic locations to create an appeal that will be unmatched in in the world of club rugby."

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