A couple of days ago I had a crack at the professional rugby season for 2021 which you can read here. Key to that idea was restructuring the Pro 14. A better tournament could be achieved by having more competitive games, more often. For example, is there much point in the Dragons going over to Leinster to get beaten by their second team by 30-40 points every season?
Rumours abound that the two South African teams currently competing could be replaced with the Super Rugby franchises, taking it to a 16 tournament competition. This idea is based on the current format but could easily be adjusted to two divisions of 8.
For now however I’ll work with the situation as it stands.
- The Pro 14 is restructured to have the top 7 ranked teams compete in Division 1 and the remainder in Division 2 with promotion and relegation. Placings are based on points accumulated during the 13 matches played in 2019/20 season so far.
- The 7 teams in each division play each other home and away with each team getting 2 byes during the 14 rounds, helpful for player welfare.
- Semi-finals can be completed with the team ranked 1 (home) playing the team ranked 4 (away) and teams ranked 2 (home) playing 3 (away). Winners of the two semi-finals then play each other in Grand Finals for Division 1 and 2. The winner of the Division 2 final also wins promotion, replacing the bottom ranked team in Division 1.
|Division 1||Division 2|
|Glasgow Warriors||Isuzu Southern Kings|
Of course we still want to have local rivalries so to kick the season off with a bang there could be new Welsh and Irish domestic tournaments established, culminating in the final round being played at the national stadium (i.e. WRU Judgement Day). As Scotland and Italy only have 2 professional teams they will unfortunately have to unite for fixtures. These new domestic tournaments provide a formal setting for preseason warmups and competition for places, regionally and internationally, before the Pro 14 tournament begins.
Here is an example of how it could work:
- Welsh Regional Challenge Cup (Round 6 to be played at Principality Stadium)
|Game 1||Game 2|
|Round 1||Cardiff Blues v Ospreys||Dragons v Scarlets|
|Round 2||Ospreys v Dragons||Scarlets v Cardiff Blues|
|Round 3||Dragons v Cardiff Blues||Ospreys v Scarlets|
|Round 4||Cardiff Blues v Scarlets||Dragons v Ospreys|
|Round 5||Ospreys v Cardiff Blues||Scarlets v Dragons|
|Round 6||Cardiff Blues v Dragons||Scarlets v Ospreys|
- Irish Regional Challenge Cup (Round 6 to be played at Aviva Stadium)
|Game 1||Game 2|
|Round 1||Leinster v Ulster||Connacht v Munster|
|Round 2||Ulster v Connacht||Munster v Leinster|
|Round 3||Connacht v Leinster||Ulster v Munster|
|Round 4||Leinster v Munster||Connacht v Ulster|
|Round 5||Ulster v Leinster||Munster v Connacht|
|Round 6||Leinster v Connacht||Munster v Ulster|
- Scottish/Italian Trophy
|Game 1||Game 2|
|Round 1||Glasgow v Edinburgh||Zebre v Benetton|
|Round 2||Edinburgh v Zebre||Benetton v Glasgow|
|Round 3||Zebre v Glasgow||Edinburgh v Benetton|
|Round 4||Glasgow v Benetton||Zebre v Edinburgh|
|Round 5||Glasgow v Zebre||Benetton v Edinburgh|
|Round 6||Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors||Benetton v Zebre|
- Although only a brief 6 week tournament it provides the opportunity to create interest in rugby union to start the season by tapping into the local rivalries of regional team. Who will be the best Welsh/Irish team? None of them will want to finish at the bottom of the pile.
- The 16 rounds of the proposed new Pro 14 plus 6 rounds of the proposed domestic competition also matches the 22 round league season of the English Premiership.
This is just an idea but I think the result would be a better product through more competitive games and produce better players for international level.