Pro14 confirms expansion talks with South Africa

Cheetahs and Southern Kings joined the league in the 2017/18 season

Leinster will start the defence of their Guinness Pro14 crown against the Dragons in Dublin on Friday, 2 October.

As flagged up last month, the 2020-21 season will begin with just 12 teams.

Munster's round three meeting with Cardiff Blues on October 26 at 8.15pm will get the Monday Night Rugby ball rolling and there are plenty more besides - 14 in all - through the first eight weeks of fixtures which were released on Wednesday afternoon.

On the Saturday, Scarlets and Munster go head-to-head [live on Premier Sports and eir Sport], as Connacht welcome Glasgow Warriors to the west of Ireland [live on TG4, eir Sport and Premier Sports].

The news comes after dates and times were confirmed for the first eight weeks of Pro14 action today, with 14 Monday night fixtures taking place between Rounds 3 and 8 as a preventative measure against direct clashes with the extended global calendar.

On the same night Ulster will entertain Benetton. With the Covid-19 pandemic the Cheetahs have yet to play a game while the Southern Kings are in such dire financial straits that they are likely to fold.

PRO14 chairman Dominic McKay said, "Playing on Monday nights provides the Guinness PRO14 with a unique platform in the rugby market and enables us to make the most of playing through such a busy time for our sport". As things stand, there will be no teams participating in the league from the Rainbow nation until 2021.

Southern Kings were withdrawn from the league and have since entered liquidation.

PRO14 Rugby has confirmed it is in "early discussions" with SA Rugby about potentially expanding the tournament to include more South African franchises from 2021.

PRO14 Rugby, which comprises teams from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and South Africa, has always been touted as a better alternative for South Africa's Super Rugby franchises.

The Cheetahs and Southern Kings were South Africa's two PRO14 outfits, but it is believed that SA Rugby was keen to field its four Super Rugby sides - the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers - in an expanded PRO16.

New Zealand Rugby has already been making plans for a new competition, excluding the South African teams and possibly without the Australian teams also, but including a Pacific Islands team.

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