The Guinness PRO14 official launch gave a sneak peek of this year’s final venue as media gathered at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
After the Scarlets claimed the 2016/17 title in style last year in the Irish capital, the first-ever Guinness PRO14 final will take place at the same ground.
For Guinness PRO14 Chief Executive Officer Martin Anayi, it offers the championship some stability at a time of expansion with the introduction of two South African teams, the Southern Kings and the Toyota Cheetahs, as well as a conference system.
And Anayi believes using the Aviva Stadium will pay dividends for the clubs in the long-term, while offering a top class stadium for the showpiece final.
He said: “It’s an amazing facility, it’s an iconic venue and we do great business here. That’s important when you understand our model. Our model is to give revenue back to the clubs to be competitive on the pitch.
“The final from last season and this final coming up in 2018 will allow us to deliver as much revenue as we can in this season of great change for the good. A little bit of stability goes a long way.”
Coaches and captains from the 14 teams came together in Dublin, including representatives from both the Kings and Cheetahs.
That followed an official launch in South Africa last week, and Anayi explained that the Guinness PRO14 has already started to make its mark with the two new teams.
“I think the southern hemisphere versus northern hemisphere aspect is the thing that’s capturing the imagination,” he added.
“The two teams we have brought in play a very attractive style of rugby which suits our Championship. So I think that’s captured the imagination.
“Our teams and great names of the world game are going to be travelling to those shores for the first time as a touring party has reinvigorated the passion for the South African game. Not that it was flagging at all but it gives it a shot in the arm and that was very apparent from my trip down there.”
This season also sees the conference system introduced to the Championship, with teams split into two conferences, while the play-offs have been extended with the introduction of quarter-finals.
For Tournament Director David Jordan, that decision was taken from the perspective of the league as a whole, and more specifically the knock-out games in the final weeks of the season.
He said: “We spent a lot of effort in looking at how we could expand our tournament in the limited window that we had. The way to do that is by introducing a conference system. We did that using some guiding principles.
“The guiding principle within that window was to preserve our derby games and also at the business end of our season is where the excitement kicks in, so we were looking at how we can develop our play-off series. The conference format has allowed us to do that and allowed us to expand.”
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie