Anglo-Welsh Cup: Premiership Rugby looks at inviting South African teams

Leicester Tigers beat Exeter Chiefs in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final in March
Leicester Tigers beat Exeter Chiefs in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final in March

Premiership Rugby is investigating the possibility of introducing South African teams into the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

The competition currently features the 12 English Premiership clubs and the four Welsh regions.

But changes to rugby's calendar post-2019 would offer English rugby bosses the chance to invite Currie Cup teams into the developmental tournament.

The prospective competition would run during the international windows in November and February/March.

The Currie Cup is the second tier of professional rugby in South Africa.

Currently, club tournaments are split into hemispheres but BBC Sport understands there is now a more open-minded approach to arranging them by time-zones.

The year-round South African Standard Time is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and one hour ahead of British Summer Time.

In April, it was announced that two of South Africa's six teams are to be cut from Super Rugby as the competition is streamlined from 18 teams to 15.

However, the head of Premiership Rugby says there is a lot of growth to come in the English club game.

"There are four big things for us: attendance growth, audience growth, the appeal of our brand, and then making sure we have it all financially sustainable," chief executive Mark McCafferty told BBC 5 live.

'Different pre-seasons will be the answer'

Meanwhile, McCafferty insists player welfare is the league's priority, despite the strong opposition from players to the proposed 10-month domestic season.

"The players were fully involved [in the discussions], there was engagement. The important thing now is we work through the detail," McCafferty said.

"Players will have slightly different pre-seasons, that will be the answer.

"For the vast majority of players it will be very good, there will be the opportunity for mid-season breaks, which they have been calling for."

Despite the unrest, McCafferty insists his organisation has led the way when it comes to player welfare.

"I don't think there is a league in the world that has invested as much time or resource in player welfare as we have," he added.

"Whether that is player development, or concussion, we have led the world."

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