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Pro14 and South African sides combine to create United Rugby Championship

The Pro14 has been rebranded as the United Rugby Championship for next season with the arrival of the four former South African Super Rugby sides.

The tournament will kick off this September and will feature the 12 sides from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy which took part in this season’s Guinness Pro14, along with the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions.

Each team will play 18 regular-season games (down from the 21 games each side played in previous Pro14 seasons), after which eight teams will qualify for the quarter-finals.

United Rugby Championship format.

The competition will be split into four conferences each with four teams – a South African conference, an Irish conference, a Welsh conference and a combined Scottish-Italian conference.

Each team will play the other three sides in the conference twice on a home and away basis, before playing the other 12 teams once. Each side will play nine home and nine away games.

The top-ranked side in every conference will qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament, and then the following four highest sides in a combined league table will take the remaining spots in the last eight.

The reduced number of fixtures means that no United Rugby Championship matches will be clashing with international games played on the same weekend.

Qualification for the Heineken Champions Cup.

Eight teams from the United Rugby Championship will qualify for the following season of the Heineken Champions Cup, including the South African sides.

This means that South African sides will be eligible to play in the Champions Cup for the first time ever in the 2022/23 season. Next season’s Champions Cup will only feature European sides as usual.

Qualification for the Champions Cup will work in the same way as qualifying for the United Rugby Championship quarter-finals.

The top-ranked side from each conference, along with the following four highest-ranked sides in the combined league table will play in the following season of the Champions Cup.

The remaining eight teams will play in the following season of the Challenge Cup.

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