DRAGONS chairman David Buttress believes the United Rugby Championship will provide quality rather than quantity at Rodney Parade, helping them to grow the business commercially.

Gone is the Guinness PRO14 with the arrival of the South African quartet of the Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks leading to a new name and new format.

The conferences have been ditched and it will now be one league with all teams playing 18 games.

The URC has aimed to avoid clashes with international periods – although Wales have fitted in an autumn clash with New Zealand outside World Rugby’s window, plus the Springboks will be playing in September and October – with the hope of seeing more Test stars in action.

That does mean that punters have fewer home games for their season tickets but Buttress hopes the quality of fixtures will make up for that.

"I am excited about the format of the season because it means our best players will be around a lot more than the previous format,” said the chairman.

"There is very little overlap with international fixtures although with camps we think we might miss them for three or four games maximum.

"It is probably the most exciting radical change which allows the best players to be on show for their clubs far more frequently. I think this has materially addressed that.”

Buttress is working on a deal to return the Welsh Rugby Union-owned Dragons to private ownership – “I can't say anything about it at this moment in time because things are delicate” – and believes the new competition presents opportunities for the business.

"I was a big supporter of this format because I think it was about quality of fixture not quantity,” he said.

“When you look at the quality of the South African sides and having our best players available, I think we will be able to offset there is one or two less home fixtures on the basis we will now have high quality games more frequently.

"With rugby being as attritional, physical and gladiatorial it should be about the quality of the game.

“Commercially there will be an opportunity for us to grow. Less is more especially as I believe the quality will be better than it used to be.”

South Wales Argus: Elliot Dee carrying hard for the Dragons against LeinsterElliot Dee carrying hard for the Dragons against Leinster

Buttress hopes that it won’t just be Elliot Dee, Leon Brown, Aaron Wainwright, Ross Moriarty and Will Rowlands that are at Rodney Parade more frequently but the stars from Ireland, Scotland, Italy and South Africa.

“We have developed a lot of our internationals from our academy and they love playing for the Dragons,” he said. “For them to miss parts of the season is not great for them.

“From a supporter perspective, when I go to watch games I want to see the best players week in, week out.

“This new format gives us not only the opportunity to see the best players and high-profile stars more frequently from a Dragons-perspective but when sides come and play us I want to see the South African or Irish stars.

“That's why you take the kids and turn up to watch these games. It's definitely good for supporters, these star players are the gold dust of the product.”

After frequent changes to the Celtic League, URC bosses have pledged “this format for at least the next five years. The intention is for the league not to change format again”.

Buttress said: "We have five years of clarity now and I think this has improved and strengthened many of the things we needed to improve on.”

The Dragons will play home and away against their Welsh rivals with 12 fixtures, either in Newport or on the road, against those from other countries.

The top eight qualify 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.