The Pro 12 is set for far more than a name change next season, with the expected inclusion of South African sides Southern Kings and Cheetahs, with a dramatic new format also set to be implemented.
With the expansion of the league to 14 teams, it is understood that bosses are planning to implement a two-conference format that will split the league in two. The idea behind this is, among other things, to ensure that teams are not forced to play a whopping 26 games before the play-offs.
Instead, it is believed that teams in each conference will face each other home and away, while they will face teams in the other conference only once.
Having been a 22-game league up until now, this suggested format would see teams play 19 games, still three short of the Pro 12 format.
With Munster and Leinster set to be named in different conferences, this new format now has serious connotations for the famous derbies that both sides have given fans in recent seasons.
Similarly, for Ulster and Connacht, they will be separated, thus further impacting the provincial clashes.
The mooted conferences, if confirmed, will be based on the final standings from last season’s table and will look like this.
Conference A: Scarlets, Munster, Ulster, Blues, Edinburgh, Zebre and either the Cheethas or Kings.
Conference B: Leinster, Ospreys, Connacht, Glasgow, Dragons, Treviso, and either the Cheetahs or the Kings.
Under the existing format, fans get to enjoy a total of twelve Irish derbies between the four provinces but under the new proposals, this number will drop to only eight.
It has also been suggested that to bring the new format back up to a 22-game league, additional derby matches would be added back into the fixture list.
However, for the Irish provinces, who would see four derbies cut from the proposed format change, picking which three derbies to reinstate and which one to cut seems like an almost impossible task without causing some serious backlash.
With news of the new format set to be unveiled this week, clubs and fans alike, await news on the fate of their much-loved derby games.
Hat Tip to WalesOnline
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