Former Irish captain and British & Irish Lions hooker Keith Wood has questioned the purpose of including the Cheetahs and Kings in the PRO14 competition.

The two South African franchises were included in Celtic Rugby’s premier tournament as the PRO12 expanded to the PRO14 in 2017 after the Cheetahs and Kings were left out of Vodacom Super Rugby.

In their first season of the PRO14 – which began shortly after the end of the 2017 Super Rugby season – the Cheetahs reached the playoffs where they lost to eventual finalists the Scarlets in Wales. The Bloemfontein-based team were also on track to reach the quarter-finals before the current 2019-20 season was brought to a halt by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Kings, meanwhile, have struggled for any form of consistency in the tournament, winning just four matches and drawing one in their three seasons. With just one win this season, the Port Elizabeth-based team were set to finish bottom of their conference for the third time in a row.

Touching on where rugby could be headed following the coronavirus crisis, Wood – who played 58 Test matches for Ireland between 1994 and 2003 – said the inclusion of the Cheetahs and Kings in the PRO14 tournament was a ‘waste of time’.

‘For me, the PRO 14, I don’t like it as a competition,’ Wood said. ‘I’ve never quite understood – I do understand because of Italy being in the Six Nations –  the need to put Italian sides, with no history, no sense of a rivalry, into the midst of a Celtic competition.

‘And the South African teams for me, I think are an absolute waste of time. In terms of player welfare, deciding in the middle of your season, especially for international players, to suddenly have to pop down and play a game at the Highveld, for me it isn’t particularly right.

‘I would love to have a British and Irish League,’ he added. ‘Because I think the sense of rivalry that we see in the Six Nations can be mirrored at a club game with Leicester and Leinster or Munster.’

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Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile/Gallo Images

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