SUNDAY and Monday evening matches will dominate the 2020-21 PRO14 fixture schedule up to Christmas with tournament organisers looking to maximise exposure by avoiding clashes with this Autumn’s extended international window.

Games in this league have traditionally been played predominantly on Friday nights and Saturdays – regarded as prime rugby viewing times – but the Covid-19 pandemic has turned the established logic of fixture scheduling on its head, with the assumption that most (if not all) matches will be played behind closed doors making it imperative that broadcasting potential is fully maximised.

In total, 14 Monday night fixtures and 15 Sunday fixtures will take place between Rounds 3 and 8, from October 23 November 30 (the window during which Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy will all be international action). It is hoped that the Monday night matches in particular will put the PRO14 in front of a “prime-time market”.

Glasgow Warriors will open their campaign with a trip to Galway to take on Connacht at 5pm on Saturday, October 3, while Edinburgh will host Ospreys at Murrayfield later that night with a 7.40pm kick-off. The conferences will be the same as last year, which means Warriors are once again up against PRO14 super-power Leinster as well as Ulster, the Ospreys, the Dragons and Zebre, while Edinburgh will compete for a play-off seeding against Munster, Scarlets, Cardiff Blues, Connacht and Treviso.

The first Monday night match involving a Scottish team will be on November 2, when Warriors host Leinster at Scotstoun with an 8.15pm kick-off.

“Rounds 9, 10 and 11 of the Guinness PRO14 will feature the fierce derby matches across the UK, Ireland and Italy and the scheduling for those games will occur in due course,” said a statement issued by PRO14 yesterday afternoon.

As a result of current travel restrictions, the first 11 games of the upcoming season will feature European-based teams only. Plans are in place for South African teams to resume playing in 2021, but they will not be able to play a full schedule. Discussions are under way with the South African Rugby Union to not only enter a team in place of the recently liquidated Southern Kings, but also to expand the tournament to include more South African franchises from 2021.

With the pandemic conditions varying across each of our competing territories the full fixture list cannot be published at this point. “Thanks to the buy-in and support from our teams and broadcasters we believe we have delivered an innovative solution to the challenges posed to us by the international rugby calendar,” commented Dominic McKay, the chairman of PRO14 Rugby.

“Playing on Monday nights provides the Guinness PRO14 with a unique platform in the rugby market and enables us to make the most of playing through such a busy time for our sport.”