A NEW eight team league involving ‘A teams’ from the four Irish provinces and the four Welsh regions will kick-off in September, according to David Nucifora, the performance director for the IRFU.
Speaking at his annual press briefing yesterday, Nucifora explained that the league will aim to fill the gap created by the discontinuation of the British and Irish Cup, which was always an uneasy alliance between English Championship clubs and their Celtic neighbours.
The new competition will be played across seven weeks “with the aim of mimicking the intensity required and week-to-week competition that PRO14 gives our players.”
“It’s a development competition but hopefully the fact that we’ll be doing it over seven consecutive weeks gives us a lot more replication of what the players, coaches, support staff and match officials will receive when they get promoted up into a proper league,” explained Nucifora.
Nucifora also confirmed that he and head of domestic rugby, Scott Walker, will soon meet with the top 20 club teams in Ireland to discuss how to “further align Irish rugby by trying to get maximum benefit out of club competitions for the development of our players.”
A big part of that conversation will be around aligning the new A team competition and the Ulster Bank League [Ireland’s top club competition] so that they “run seamlessly into each other; allowing for the best players not playing Pro14 week-to-week to be available to play club rugby.”
Scotland, meanwhile, are looking at a different model for creating a clear pathway to allow talented players to reach their full potential, with a new Super 6 franchised league which will sit between the domestic tier and the professional tier due to be launched at the start of the 2019-20 season. Part of this new format is the opportunity for the six franchises – from Ayr, Boroughmuir, Heriot’s, Melrose, Stirling County and Watsonians – to take part in a cross-border competition, but it has not yet been made clear who those games will be against.
The possibility of some sort of shadow PRO14 league has been doing the rounds for several months and the SRU have taken part in discussions with the league and other member unions, but hey have always been cool on the idea.