Pro 14 rugby season to start a month later than normal
Schedule will run during Rugby World Cup in September and October for 2019-20 season
Leinster players celebrate after winning the Guinness Pro 14 Final against Scarlets at the Aviva stadium in may 2018. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Next season’s Pro 14 campaign will begin four weeks later than usual and games will continue during the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The competition will kick off on Friday, September 27th and there will be three rounds of games before a break for the weekend of the World Cup quarter-finals on October 19th and 20th.
It will resume for round four on October 25th and there will also be a full round the following weekend when the World Cup final takes place in Tokyo on November 2nd.
Then there will be a further series of league games a week later before a break for two weeks when the opening two rounds of the Champions Cup takes place on the weekends starting November 15th and 22nd.
Clubs have been told that a further round of the Pro 14 will take place on the final weekend in November before breaking again for the third and fourth series of European games on December 6th and 13th.
The usual Christmas derby games will then be scheduled with the two remaining rounds of European pool action on the weekends starting January 10th and 17th, 2020.
The Pro 14 is expected to confirm its schedule in the coming weeks, almost six months after the French and English announced their plans for the 2019-20 season.
It is believed that uncertainty over the number of South African teams participating – there were strong suggestions a year ago that two more teams were planning on joining – may have been a factor in the delay announcing the schedule.
The uncertainty over the regional situation in Wales is not believed to be a factor as the WRU is committed to fielding fourth teams.
The Top 14 in France will, as usual, gets under way in late August with four rounds of games planned prior to the World Cup and another four while the competition is taking place in Japan.
The Premiership in England will not commence until the weekend of the World Cup quarter-final on October 20th.
The English clubs will participate in a domestic cup competition prior to the World Cup, while the Premiership final has been put back to June 20th, 2020 as they embark on an 11-month season with defined breaks in-season for players.
The Top 14 final will take place on June 26th, 2020, while a date and venue for the Pro 14 final is expected to be announced in the coming weeks amid speculation in South Africa that the tournament decider could be hosted there.