Pro 14 rugby

Guinness PRO14 organisers have reiterated their intention to resume the competition later this year.

Speculation that Leinster were set to be awarded the title have proven to be wide of the mark, and while it remains to be seen if that eventuality does come to pass further down the line, it is not on the immediate agenda.

The PRO14 are in constant contact with the relevant authorities, and they remain confident that rugby can be given the green light in 2020.

The tournament faces several hurdles, not least because of its cross-border nature, and while the PRO14 have acknowledged such, they are optimistic that they can finish the season, rather than scrapping it.

The IRFU yesterday told their players that they will not be returning to training next Monday as previously planned. Instead, rugby is now working towards an August 10 restart.

“We do see rugby coming back this year,” Dermot Rigley, the PRO14’s commercial director, told Sport for Business.

“We are working with the chief medical officers across each union, World Rugby, and working with the health authorities in every territory to make sure we get this right.

“The Irish government gave a date of August 10. We are working with them on when the elite game actually comes back. We are waiting on that. We do see a return to play, but how that looks is the million-dollar question.

“Social distancing, as long as that is as strict as it is now, obviously plays on how many get into a stadium, and we are working on that, but we all know this is a game, I suppose, of snakes and ladders.

“We want to make sure we do things at the right time and as safe as possible for all involved. We want to make progress and, being in the business of major events, we don’t want to have that down-the-snake potential by going too early.”

The PRO14 made the early decision to scrap its grand final, which was due to be held in Cardiff next month, but Rigley confirmed that the powers that be are exploring all possibilities, including playing games behind closed doors.

“We all want to get it back, but we want to get it right,” he added.

“That could be a combination of initially behind closed doors, limited crowds, but definitely we want to see rugby back this year, and that means finishing off this season and then starting next season as well, but there are a lot of moving parts here.

“The great thing is we have the benefit of time now. It’s still early May and in each territory, it is going quite well from the medical side.

“In Italy, it’s going quite well. Ireland, and the UK are getting a handle on it as well, and South Africa is a little bit different.

“We should have a better idea of that in the next few weeks, but definitely rugby in 2020 is our ambition.”