Kieran Marmion has welcomed the ‘exciting’ plans to expand the Guinness PRO12 to include two South African teams, the Southern Kings and Cheetahs.
The Connacht and Ireland scrum-half says all the players he’s spoken to about the planned expansion share his thoughts and believes the new teams will add to the quality of the competition.
Marmion admitted the long trip — it will take Irish provinces three flights just to reach Bloemfontein or Port Elizabeth — will be a challenge, but says it’s worth it.
“If that’s announced, it’s hugely exciting,” Marmion said. “I was speaking to a few of the lads and they’re looking forward to that happening, getting a trip to South Africa and testing ourselves against the teams down there.
“It’d be good for the league, something people can look at to see how competitive we are against southern hemisphere teams. It’d be great to see it happen.”
Marmion is in the dark as to how the upcoming season will take shape and admits neither he nor any of his international team mates were consulted.
But the 25-year-old, who played in Ireland’s second Test against South Africa in Ellis Park last summer, has faith in the clubs and their staff to look after their players’ best interests.
“There’s so much going on behind the scenes that we’ll be equipped for the travel and the strength and conditioning coaches will be ready to make sure that we can perform,” he said. “I think lads are pretty excited for it, most lads I’ve talked to want it to happen anyway, it’s a good opportunity if it does happen and a chance to go over there and see a different country and play rugby.”
A trip to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is a change from New Myreside, but is there a risk to elevating two of Super Rugby’s cast-offs?
“Not really, I guess it brings it out of the Celtic Leagues a little bit, expanding the competition that way, so I don’t see anything negative about it,” Marmion added.
“I guess if the South African teams are competitive in it, hopefully it can help teams in the league to get better. The more competitive it is, the better for people viewing. They’ll offer something different in the league, they’ll be pretty physical and a trip away to South Africa would be as tough as they come. I think the Cheetahs play at altitude, that will be another thing we don’t have over here.”
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