Rainbow Cup kick-off announced
The Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup will kick-off on the weekend of 24 April with fixtures for the first three rounds now confirmed.
Three weekends of derby action will be followed by cross-hemisphere fixtures where the existing Guinness PRO14 teams will face the Vodacom Bulls, the Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers for the very first time.
Richard Cockerill's side will start their Rainbow Cup campaign at home to Zebre on the w/o 24 April, before back-to-back intercity derbies against Glasgow Warriors on w/o 8 May (away) and w/o 15 May (home).
The format to determine the winner of the 1872 Cup will be confirmed by both Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors in due course with the series currently tied 1-1 in season 2020-21.
Ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, these games should help to ignite the rivalries that will play out in the summer when the Lions and the reigning World Champion Springboks go head-to-head.
Changes to scheduling and format of the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup have been made to limit travel where possible with the opening three rounds accounting for derby fixtures across Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.
Rounds 4 to 6 will see the four South African ‘Super’ franchises play their away games in Europe and those fixtures will be confirmed once all appropriate travel approvals have been confirmed by the relevant authorities and governments. This format means that no teams from Europe will travel to South Africa for Guinness Rainbow Cup games.
A total of six rounds (eight games per round) will take place with all teams ranked in a single league table. The top two teams will then play each other in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup Final on June 19.
PRO14 Rugby is currently consulting with its broadcast partners to select kick-off times and will confirm the scheduling as soon as possible.
David Jordan, Tournament Director, PRO14 Rugby said: “Everyone is glad that we can now put some certainty into the rugby calendar in what has been an unpredictable period.
"Planning for a cross-hemisphere competition where the situation has been so fluid has provided many challenges, but we believe we have found a solution that is practical and safe to deliver a unique competition that supporters can get excited about.
“Throughout the Guinness PRO14 season have liaised with our unions and their governments to ensure we are meeting the conditions set out for elite sport to operate. We are very grateful for that support, without which a cross-border competition such as ours could not have taken place.”