The domestic leagues in northern Europe can be tough to understand with the season running from the fall to spring and the Guinness Pro12 is the most confusing its unique cross-border format.  But never fear – World Rugby Shop is here to explain all!


What is the Pro12 anyway?


The Pro12 is Europe’s only cross-border domestic competition. Unlike the single-nation domestic leagues such as the Aviva English Premiership or the French Top 14, the Pro12 features 12 teams from four different nations competing for a place in the end of season playoffs.


Four nations? How does that work?


The Pro12 was originally known as the Celtic League, and began play in 2001 featuring teams from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, however in 2010, teams from Italy were added to the mix. The following year, the Pro12 moniker was adopted, and has remained through sponsorship changes to become the Guinness Pro12. The makeup of teams in the league has fluctuated over time, but there are currently four Irish provinces (Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht), four Welsh regions (Ospreys, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons), two Scottish clubs (Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors) and two sides from Italy (Benetton Treviso and Zebre).


How does having a league in four different countries work?


Well, much in the same way as most other conventional ladder league systems work, actually. The teams all play each other home and away, with points awarded for wins, scoring four tries, and losing by less than seven points. At the end of the regular season, the top four teams enter the playoffs, with the winners of the two semi-finals meeting in a Grand Final to decide the eventual champion.


When do they play?


Like most Northern Hemisphere teams, the Pro12 kicks off at the start of September and culminates with the Grand Final at the end of May. They play throughout the year, including during the Autumn Internationals and the Six Nations, too!


Why should I care?


The Pro12 prides itself on showcasing more international players than any other league in the Northern Hemisphere. Whereas the English and French leagues must spread their international players among 10 or 12 teams in their domestic league, the Pro12 concentrates this significantly, and each team in the league will showcase more internationals from their country than the equivalent Top 14 or Premiership team. If you’re based in North America, there might also be a very good reason for you to take an interest in the Pro12 over the next couple of years…


Why should North American fans take a special interest in the Pro12?


Well, simply put, because in a couple of years time the Pro12 might well be bringing top flight professional rugby to North America on a weekly basis. According to newspaper reports, plans are in the pipeline to establish Pro12 teams in the USA and Canada for the start of the 2018/19 season. These teams would compete in the league alongside the existing Pro12 teams, bringing the likes of Munster, Leinster, Glasgow and Scarlets to North America at least once a season. It’s early days yet, but the Pro12 could have a huge part to play in the growth of rugby in the USA and Canada!

Shop for official gear of the Guinness Pro12 at World Rugby Shop

(Image courtesy the official Guinness Pro12 website)