Sunday 17 December 2017

Leinster slated to play first PRO14 game in South Africa

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leinster will be the first team to make the trip to South Africa as the fixtures for the brave new Guinness PRO14 world were finally released.

Leo Cullen's side will make the trip to Port Elizabeth to play the Kings in round three (September 16) before travelling to Bloemfontein the following weekend to take on the Cheetahs.

Munster will embark on a similar mini tour in April with Connacht in Bloemfontein on March 2 and Ulster in Port Elizabeth on November 4.

Ireland out-half Johnny Sexton welcomed the addition of both South African clubs, saying: "I think it's great, it's exciting. It's going to take the league to a new level, I hope. It's exactly what's needed and it makes it more exciting. With quarter-finals it opens it up for more teams and once you're in that quarter-final or semi-final, anything can happen.

"We saw that last year, Scarlets were looking like they weren't going to qualify for the top four. They got in and go on and win the thing. It gives everyone hope."

Rivalry

Sexton hopes to be fit in time for Leinster's derby clash against Munster at the Aviva Stadium on October 7, a day after Ulster host Connacht in Belfast.

Last season's beaten finalists Munster begin their campaign in Irish Independent Park against Treviso on September 1, while on the same night, Connacht renew their rivalry with Glasgow Warriors and Ulster take on the Cheetahs in a historic clash. A day later, Bernard Jackman's Dragons welcome Leinster to Rodney Parade.

The regular season will conclude with a full round of derbies before the knockout stages begin. The final is set for May 26 with a venue to be confirmed at a later date.

Meanwhile, Connacht have boosted their back-three options with the signing of former Ulster and Ireland U-20 winger Rory Scholes. The 24-year old spent last season with Edinburgh but will be hoping to kick-start his career at the Sportsground.

Irish Independent

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