Premiership Rugby Cup launched
By Mark Stevens
Premiership Rugby will launch a new Cup competition next season, involving the 12 Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs in a format including a new Derby Day round.
With total prize money of more than half a million pounds, the new competition will be played over four pool rounds, including the Derby Day, semi-finals and Final.
To replace the Anglo-Welsh Cup the Premiership Rugby Cup will comprise three pools of four teams each and will kick off with the first two pool rounds starting on the last weekend of October and the second two starting at the end of January.
One of the second two rounds will see Derby Day clashes for the 12 teams before the Cup moves into the knockout phase with the three pool winners and the best runner up moving into the semi-finals.
“The Cup has been a highly successful competition in recent years in helping develop the best new Premiership and England players, in front of big crowds and TV audiences,” said Premiership Rugby Chief Executive, Mark McCafferty.
“The pathway for young players is now clear linking the Under-18s League, the A League and now the Premiership Rugby Cup into one strong route towards Gallagher Premiership Rugby, European competitions and Test matches.
“Many Test players including Owen Farrell, George Ford and Maro Itoje all made their senior debuts in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and some of the most recent Breakthrough Players of the Year have been Jack Nowell, Jonny May and Adam Radwan.
“In addition, the competition has seen many different club coaches taking responsibility for the Cup team and developing their experience and skills in charge.
"This focus on new playing and coaching talent will continue in the new Cup format with young players and coaches experiencing the challenge of bigger crowds and TV exposure.
“This season has seen record TV audiences throughout the competition and success in the Final for Exeter Chiefs to support their quest for another Aviva Premiership Rugby title.
“More than 1.3m fans watched live coverage of the Cup on BT Sport this season, a 37% increase year on year. This competition is fundamental to developing young players for Premiership action in front of big crowds and more intense atmospheres.
“We are sad that our friends in the Welsh Regions will not be involved next season but we have been discussing for some time that they need to move a new structure, prioritising an Under-23 format.”
A Pro Rugby Wales spokesperson added: “The review of development structures and processes we have undertaken together with the WRU over the last 12 months has clearly illustrated the need for us to focus on our 18–23yrs player development through a dedicated U23 competition, which unfortunately means we will no longer have the resources to be able to compete in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
“We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in the competition, which has certainly contributed to our player development in the past and we are delighted to see the way it has gone from strength-to-strength in recent years, with record TV audiences in the 2017-18 season.
“We have a great working relationship with the English clubs and Premiership Rugby and hope we can work together in the future as the game continues to evolve. We wish them the very best of luck with their new competition.”
The pool draw for the new Premiership Rugby Cup will be announced at the BT Tower on 6 July.
• New competition to be called Premiership Rugby Cup
• Prize money in every match for the winning team
• Four rounds followed by semi-final and Final
• Final to be staged at the home ground of the highest seeded team