Pro14: Regional rugby chief says 'exciting' competition could expand further

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'Why wouldn't we expand further?'

The head of Welsh regional rugby says the new Pro14 could expand further after two South African sides were added to the tournament.

Southern Kings and Cheetahs have joined teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in the revamped Pro14.

Pro Rugby Wales chief Mark Davies believes the league must improve to match English and French tournaments.

"We can contemplate further geographical expansion, why wouldn't we?" said Davies.

"It's not on the back-burner. We can't afford to take our foot off the gas.

"Even when we're getting to the point of matching our first ambition of doubling our revenues, we're still behind our competition.

"We don't have the opportunity to coast, we have to keep pushing."

Davies is head of the Pro Rugby Wales organisation which represents the four Welsh regions - Dragons, Scarlets, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues - and sits on the Celtic Rugby board that runs the Pro14 tournament.

The new 14-team league which starts in September is split into two conferences of seven and there have been reports linking teams from USA, Spain and Germany joining the tournament.

"One of the benefits of going to a conference structure is we can continue to grow the competition," said Davies.

"It's not a domestic league. We've always had four nations every weekend with different styles of rugby, different philosophies.

"So if we've got five nations every weekend, why can't we have six?"

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More South African sides?

There are still four South African sides playing in Super Rugby with Davies not ruling out more sides from the country joining the Kings and Cheetahs.

"From a South African point of view, it would be sensible if they can continue to play New Zealand and Australia," said Davies.

"They'll want to retain both. They're now in a position where they have a choice.

"Would they seek to have more teams playing in the northern hemisphere? I believe so.

"It doesn't necessarily mean they'll have less playing in the southern hemisphere."

Davies believes the new competition, which will include 21 regular matches and play-offs, will be exciting.

"We've now got five of the top ten tier nations playing in one competition," said Davies

"It's pretty profound, the first time there's been any club competition that's transcended hemispheres."

Champions Scarlets
Scarlets celebrate winning the Pro12 final last season

Dissenting voices

Davies has been at the heart of delivering the radical expansion in the last few months but admits there will be doubters.

"It arrived late, it's been delivered in about a 12-week period," said Davies.

"It's been hard work from a very small group of people but absolutely worthwhile because of the scale of the change. It's not the end game, it's the end of the beginning.

"South African supporters can now watch rugby in their summer which they're excited about. Perhaps there's a lesson there for us.

"In any change there will be dissenting voices. The alternative is we stay the same and that isn't an option because if you stay the same in any form of life, you go backwards. We are not going backwards.

"I've met with various supporters and the overriding impression is excitement, a belief this is something new. Our aim was to have more big games and that's what we've got."

Chiefs celebrate
Chiefs celebrate winning the Aviva Premiership Final match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham Stadium

Rivalling England and France

Davies believes the expanded Pro14 competition has ensured the tournament will be noticed by France's Top 14 and English Aviva Premiership bosses.

"I would like to think they're recognising the fact we woke up and something's happening," said Davies.

"The Aviva and Top 14 are strong, well-run, domestic competitions in big markets and we have to compete on different terms.

"I'd like to think the English and French clubs are looking at us and feeling it is worthwhile watching what we're doing.

"Instead of then looking at each other now, perhaps they have someone else in the room. If there's three in the race, we all go forward."

The Welsh regions will benefit from an additional £500,000 per region, although Davies would not be drawn on exact figures.

Davies stated that extra money would not be spent on travel costs to South Africa with additional revenue provided for the trips.

"We've got broadcast agreements in place in South Africa which are significant," said Davies.

"That's the first stage of the contribution to our clubs.

"It wouldn't be sensible to then dilute that with additional travel costs."

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