The make-up of the Conferences for next season’s Guinness Pro14 are still up in the air despite the 2018/19 campaign finishing last weekend, and will remain so until next week at the earliest.
WalesOnline writer Simon Thomas has tweeted “I am told there’s a format the teams slot into based upon national placing etc. Should have the details for you in the next week or two.”
The question is why it should take so long to confirm them, leaving supporters purchasing season tickets without knowing who their team will be hosting next season, or even definitely how many home games they will have.
When this Conference format was rolled out after the South African teams joined the league ahead of the 2017/18 season, the Pro14 organisers were very clear in how it would work.
They stated that every season the Conferences will be filled in a specific order that saw the 1st and 4th ranked Irish teams, the 2nd and 3rd ranked Welsh teams, the 2nd ranked Italian team and the 1st ranked Scottish and South African teams in Conference A, with the other teams making up Conference B.
Word is that there is some debate over who actually finished as the 1st ranked Irish team after last season, with Leinster topping Conference B and winning the Final, but Munster finishing the regular season with more points.
Again though, the Pro14 organisers were very clear how this would work, stating “final placings are also determined by the order in which teams progress through the Guinness PRO14 Final Series.” They used the example of Scarlets finishing third in 2016/17 but winning the Final, therefore being the top ranked side.
As a result the Conferences for 2019/20 should look like this;
Conference A: Leinster, Connacht, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Glasgow, Cheetahs, Zebre
Conference B: Munster, Ulster, Ospreys, Dragons, Edinburgh, Kings, Benetton
However, this delay to confirming the Conferences might be set to save Cardiff Blues from what is the Conference of death, with the Pro14 potentially concerned by how strong Conference A is in comparison to Conference B.
They could choose to redress this balance by stating that Munster are the top ranked Irish side, placing them in Conference A with Leinster in Conference B, or they could opt to switch some of the two-teamed countries about.
Switching Glasgow and Edinburgh, or Cheetahs and Kings, might be the answer to bring some equality to the Conference format.
Of course, the supporters will be the last to find out…