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PRO14 could be abandoned with Leinster retaining title while Connacht could lose out in Champions Cup revamp

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Leinster celebrate last year's success

Leinster celebrate last year's success

SPORTSFILE

Leinster celebrate last year's success

There is a growing sense that this season's Guinness PRO14 will be abandoned with Leinster retaining their title.

And Connacht could prove to be the big losers if the season is curtailed, with reports European Champions Cup organisers could reduce the number of teams in next season's competition to make room for the closing stages of this season's tournament.

According to The Daily Telegraph, next season's Heineken Champions Cup could contain 18 teams as opposed to 20 teams.

That would allow them to play the quarter-final of the 2019/20 season in September, with the semi-final on October 10 and the final on October 17.

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Then, the new season would kick off in December with six groups of three teams vying for the last eight.

According to the report, next season's quarter-finals could be played over two legs.

If the PRO14 is finished as has been reported by The Daily Mail, the top three teams from each conference would qualify meaning Leinster, Munster and Ulster would go forward. Connacht are the seventh-highest ranked team and would ordinarily have a play-off for the final European spot, but in this scenario they would be consigned to a season the Challenge Cup.

Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie called for the current campaign to be written off with Leo Cullen's unbeaten team taking the honours and it seems the challenge of aligning a league that crosses so many borders may prove too much for organisers.

The league was suspended after 13 rounds as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the planned Cardiff final was cancelled.

On Thursday, French officials decided to abandon the Top 14 and Super Rugby could be next to go as Australia and New Zealand plan their own tournaments that would run over their winter.

Similarly, a PRO14 announcement could open the door for a summer interprovincial series in Ireland if permission was granted by public health officials.

Administrators are working on a number of scenarios, one of which could see squads split into two groups of 25 which train independently of each other at different times of the day in an attempt to limit the chance of infection and the impact if there was a confirmed case among the squad.

Games would likely take place behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium, while there has been reports that Ulster could move their training base south of the border to Dundalk to ensure they are aligned with the other provinces from a public health point of view.

All of this will depend on the government's next steps when it comes to lifting the lockdown.

As it stands, the four Irish provinces are planning a return to training on May 18, but they will be tuning in to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's next announcement with great interest.

Online Editors