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IRFU considering new A team competition with South African sides

The provincial A teams have been without international competition in recent years.

Alex Kendellan playing for a Munster Development team last year.
Alex Kendellan playing for a Munster Development team last year.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

THE IRFU IS considering entering the four provincial A teams into a new competition with three South African sides next season.

The42 understands that the union is weighing up whether to enter Ulster A, Munster A, Connacht A, and Leinster A into a new tournament in which they would face the Cheetahs, Pumas, and Griquas of South Africa.

The Cheetahs were previously part of the Pro14 but lost out on a place in the expanded URC as SA Rugby instead brought the Stormers, Bulls, Sharks, and Lions into the competition.

Based in Bloemfontein, the Cheetahs have been searching for new competitions since 2020 and it was recently confirmed that they will be part of the EPCR Challenge Cup in Europe next season.

The Pumas and Griquas are two of the smallest unions in South African rugby but they recently contested the final of the prestigious Currie Cup, which is a major honour in domestic South African rugby.

The Pumas, who are based in Mbombela, won that final 26-19 away to the Griquas in Kimberley three weekends ago.

These three South African teams could now be set for a new competition against Ireland’s A teams.

The Irish A sides previously played in the British and Irish Cup and then the Celtic Cup, but have been without international competition since the pandemic first hit in 2020.

With fewer URC games now than was the case with the Pro14, it’s understood that the IRFU is keen for young Irish players to get more exposure to high-level competition when they are not selected for URC or Champions Cup teams.

The All-Ireland League [AIL] enjoyed a resurgence last season, with plenty of involvement for academy players from the provinces, and many in Irish rugby would like to see the domestic competition supported even more.

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It’s unclear exactly how the proposed new competition with the South African teams might clash with the AIL’s match weekends.

It’s thought that the provincial A teams would still play against each other in Ireland before travelling to South Africa to take on the Cheetahs, Pumas, and Griquas under the current proposal.

Dates and the possible competition format are still being discussed by the IRFU and SA Rugby, but there is hope on both side that plans can be finalised ahead of the 2022/23 season. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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