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Rainbow Cup to start this month with final call on South African sides to come

The three rounds of derby games will go ahead as planned.

Leinster and Munster will meet in two weekends' time.
Leinster and Munster will meet in two weekends' time.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THE RAINBOW CUP will kick-off as planned in two weekends’ time, getting underway with three rounds of derby games in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, and South Africa.

Tournament organisers are also understood to still be hopeful that the four new South African teams – the Bulls, Lions, Stormers, and Sharks – may be able to travel north for rounds four to six. 

Reports over the weekend suggested that those plans had been cancelled but there remains some hope that a government exemption will be granted in the UK.

Pro14 Rugby is thought to have identified a number of possible UK bases for the four South African teams and it’s understood they will continue to discuss the possibility with UK authorities over the coming days, with no final decision reached yet.

It’s expected that the Pro14 will confirm fixture dates and times for the opening three rounds at some stage this week, when an update on discussions regarding rounds four to six may also be provided.

Munster and Leinster are due to meet on the weekend of 24 April, with Ulster facing Connacht. 

The weekend of 8 May will see Leinster visit Connacht, with Munster hosting Ulster.

Connacht travel to Munster on the weekend of 15 May, while Ulster visit Leinster.

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It remains to be seen exactly what happens thereafter in the Rainbow Cup, which is due to conclude with a final on the weekend of 19 June.

As with the rest of professional sport during the Covid-19 pandemic, the reality is that governments will make the final decisions around the new competition. 

If that decision means the South African sides cannot travel north, it is thought that rounds three to six would still involve cross-border games between the Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and Italian sides.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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