Kingspan Stadium will host the Final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup on Saturday, August 26th and six days later will host another moment of Rugby History with the opening night fixture of the new expanded Guinness PRO14 against South Africa’s Toyota Cheetahs.
The opening game will be shown live on BBC Northern Ireland while the first match of Munster, against Benneton Treviso at Irish Independent Park in Cork, will take place the same night and be shown on TG4. The highly-anticipated fixture announcement follows the announcement that the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings have joined the Guinness PRO14 and that the Championship will move to a Conference format.
The same channel has Connacht’s opener against Glasgow Warriors in Galway on the following Saturday night while Leinster are on the road to Wales with their Saturday game against the Dragons picked out as Sky Sport’s Saturday afternoon match on 2nd.
“Our expansion into South Africa has the future of the Championship at its heart – more sustainable clubs, attracting the best players, taking on different styles of rugby and entertaining the fans from whistle to whistle – and the release of these fixtures aims to immediately deliver on that,” said PRO14 CEO Martin Anayi.
“With all the exciting news that has surrounded the unveiling of the Guinness PRO14 we know the fans have been eager to see the fixture list, but hopefully the wait has been worthwhile as we believe these fixtures will further enhance the excitement across each of the Championship’s five territories.”
All existing Derby games have been protected in the new Conference format, while Italian, Scottish and South African teams have the bonus of playing a total of three Derbies each against their domestic rivals.
In 2016/17 the Guinness PRO12 featured 295 internationals and for the forth coming Championship season organisers of the Guinness PRO14 have worked closely with each of the unions to ensure that where possible derby games do not clash with international call-ups.
Rounds 6 and 7 of the 2017/18 season fall either side of the European window and will see big derbies for the Irish and Welsh teams, with Munster visiting Leinster in Round 6 at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium and Scarlets hosting the Cardiff Blues in Round 7. Scottish and Italian clubs will face off against each other in rounds 11 – 13 along with further derbies for the Welsh and Irish teams in Rounds 11 and 12.
To close the season fans from all the regions will be treated to a round of full-blooded derby action on Super Saturday in Round 21. Judgement Day returns to the Principality Stadium in Cardiff to add something truly special to the final day of regular season action.
The Guinness PRO14 Final Series will begin on May 4 with the Quarter-Final stages and the Semi-Finals are slated for May 18. The two teams who emerge from these fixtures will meet in the Gunness PRO14’s showpiece Final on Saturday, May 26.
“Working closely the clubs, unions and broadcast partners, who turned this schedule around very quickly, we believe we have created a calendar which will give fans the best experience possible to enjoy all of the positive play that the Guinness PRO14 prides itself on,” added Anayi.
“Fans will be able to enjoy the fiercest rivalries, best international players and biggest variety of playing styles on offer in the history of the Championship.”