American teams could be playing against English opposition from as early as 2019 as part of Premiership Rugby’s renewed expansion in the United States, with talks already taking place about following the Pro14’s example and welcoming foreign club’s into the current set-up.
Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty revealed to The Independent that he expects the Anglo-Welsh Cup to be revamped in the next few years to include at least one American team, with South African clubs also a possibility following the addition of the Southern Kings and Cheetahs to the Pro 14.
While the Premiership will remain an English-only competition for the foreseeable future, the recent expansion of Welsh, Irish and Scottish rugby to include South African sides – along with Italian sides Benetton Rugby and Zebre – has not gone unnoticed, and the current domestic cup looks an attractive option to alter to bring in American sides.
“We tend to look in the next five years and I could see the prospect of in our development cup competition where currently it’s the English and the Welsh teams,” said McCafferty. “I could see American teams playing in that for instance, which is probably the right sort of level for some of their players at the moment. I could see some of the South African teams playing in that too. So I think in our other competitions there is scope for that, and then once you do that then you’re in business with each other and you see maybe the possibilities of the next 10-15 years.”
He added: “We talk about these things all the time. Often it is just talk but I would think that you’ll see some changes on that in the next couple of years, but obviously people have had priorities elsewhere at the moment.
“I could see those continuing to develop and I think again that’s one of the areas where rugby differentiates itself. If you look at the kind of things that we’re doing and what the Pro12 have done, compared to football…