THE Guinness PRO14 will rebrand as the United Rugby Championship when the South Africans join next season – with the new arrivals in contention for the European Champions Cup.

The 16-team tournament will start on the weekend of September 24 with the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls joining the existing contingent.

The conference format has been ditched and the Dragons will now play six home and away fixtures against their Welsh rivals and 12 fixtures, either at Rodney Parade or on the road, against those from other countries.

There are no fixture clashes with international fixtures, a move that tournament bosses hope will increase the standard of competition.

There will be one league table with the top eight qualifying for the play-offs with quarter-finals, and home advantage, determined by seeding.

South African representation in the 2022/23 Champions Cup is guaranteed as four of the eight spots will go to the winners of regional pools – Ireland, Wales, South Africa and Italy/Scotland.

The remaining four spots in Europe’s premier tournament will be decided by league placings.

"The format of the URC will remain in this format for at least the next five years. The intention is for the league not to change format again," read a statement.


The regular season of the United Rugby Championship will take place across 18 rounds with each team’s fixtures comprising of six (6) Home AND away fixtures against their regional pool opponents and12 Home OR away fixtures against the remaining teams in the league


Irish Pool: Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster

Welsh Pool: Dragons, Cardiff Rugby, Ospreys, Scarlets

South African Pool: Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls

Italian & Scottish Pool: Benetton Rugby, Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors, Zebre Rugby Club


One league table will be used to rank teams and after 18 rounds the top eight sides will qualify for the Play-Offs. Teams will be seeded from 1 to 8 and will receive home advantage according to their seeding.


R1: Weekend 24/25/26 September

R2: 1/2/3 October

R3: 8/9/10 October

R4: 15/16/17 October

R5: 22/23/24 October

R6: 29/30/31 October

R7: 3/4/5 December

R8: 24/25/26 December

R9: 31 December 1/2 January

R10: 7/8/9 January

R11: 28/29/30 January

R12: 18/19/20 February

R13: 4/5/6 March

R14: 25/26/27 March

R15: 1/2/3 April

R16: 22/23/24 April

R17: 29/20/21 April

R18: 20/21/22 May

URC Quarter Finals: 3/4/5 June

URC Semi-Finals 10/11/12 June

URC Final: 23/24/25 June