BBC Sport's team-by-team guide to the inaugural Pro14, Conference B

Scarlets lift Pro12 trophy
Scarlets won the final Pro12 title last season, before the league expanded from 12 to 14 teams

New teams, a new format, and an influx of heavyweight coaches herald the start of the inaugural Pro14.

The Cheetahs and Southern Kings, two franchises from South Africa, have been added to the competition after their removal from Super Rugby, bringing about a new two-conference structure.

There are storylines and talking points across the board - how will the decimated Kings take to life in Europe? Can ex-Leicester Tigers pillar Richard Cockerill "reinvent" struggling Edinburgh, and Bernard Jackman spark similar rejuvenation at the Dragons?

Will the much-vaunted Dave Rennie take Glasgow Warriors to new heights? And how will the champion Scarlets fare as they turn from hunter to hunted?

With the Pro14 beginning on 1 September, BBC Sport lays out the challenges ahead for each of the seven teams in Conference B, and the players to look out for along the way.

Pro14 conferences
The addition of two South African teams means the Pro14 has adopted a two-conference format


It is all change at Rodney Parade this summer with the Welsh Rugby Union's takeover of the region.

A new man is at the helm, with former Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman replacing Kingsley Jones, and a new pitch been laid to replace the flood-prone surface of the last few seasons.

Bernard Jackman
New Dragons boss Bernard Jackman won nine caps for Ireland

Jackman is a straight-talking coach who is looking to change the culture at a region which slipped below Treviso in the Pro12 table last season, finishing 11th with only four wins.

The big-name signing has been the return of Gavin Henson to Welsh regional rugby, while ex-South Africa back Zane Kirchner has also been recruited. But it will take more than these former internationals to lift the Dragons up the table.

Previous position: 11th

Players in: Liam Belcher (Cardiff Blues), Gerard Ellis (London Irish), Gavin Henson (Bristol), Zane Kirchner (Leinster), Dan Suter (Ospreys).

Players out: Nick Crosswell, Darran Harris, Rhys Jones, Shaun Knight, Craig Mitchell, Tom Prydie.

One to watch: One name leaps out from the arrivals at Rodney Parade and that is Gavin Henson - back in Welsh regional rugby after previous stints with the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues.

Henson has spent time at London Welsh, Bath and Bristol but at the age of 35 he is back at the Dragons. Can play 10 or 12 and we wait to see how much impact and game time he will have at the Gwent region.

Head coach Bernard Jackman: "We have a lot of work to do. I don't want to mess around and say things are great. I have inherited a region and team that needed a lot of work and support.

"We are getting stuck into that work and it's been rewarding, but we have a long way to go.

Gavin Henson
Former Wales back Gavin Henson was most recently at Bristol

"That journey is what motivates us to make sure we get the product right. I am excited by the potential of the growth that's there but I know we are starting off from 11th in the league and four games won last year.

"It has been a big task, but we are getting stuck into it and we will get through it."


Is there are more unrelentingly frustrating team in the competition? For season after season, Edinburgh's supporters have had a monopoly on the maddening.

With no place to truly call their own, no coach capable of driving them forwards, and too many players who could not be trusted to deliver, the club has festered in the league's lower half.

It is now the considerable job of Richard Cockerill, the bullish former Leicester Tiger, to strip away the years of decay and construct a team of which Scotland's capital can be proud.

Edinburgh head coaches' win percentage

Cockerill has spoken of restoring Edinburgh's credibility, forging some kind of distinct identity for the club, and reinvigorating a squad that grew more listless and forlorn with each defeat visited upon them last season.

The new boss has a mighty posse of forwards at his disposal, but needs those in the backline to exhibit more guile and panache if they are to make the most of the brawn up front.

He has made five new signings - four of them backs - and given professional deals to six academy graduates, while appointing 22-year-old back-row Magnus Bradbury skipper, adding weight to his repeated pledge that, where possible, he will place his faith in young Scots in what will be a long-term project.

Previous position: Ninth

Players in: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Robbie Fruean (Bath), Jason Harries (London Scottish), Darryl Marfo (Bath), Michele Rizzo (six-week loan, Leicester Tigers), Duhan van der Merwe (Montpellier).

Players out: Mike Allen, Nick Beavon, Jack Cosgrove, Viliami Fihaki, Will Helu, Nasi Manu, Alex Northam, Rory Scholes, Sasa Tofilau, George Turner, Kyle Whyte.

One to watch: Scotland centre Mark Bennett has moved across from Glasgow, but cruciate ligament damage means he is unlikely to feature until at least the New Year.

And so much of the burden for spearheading Edinburgh's attack falls on the meaty shoulders of fellow new boy Robbie Fruean. The bruising midfielder was once named World Under-19 player of the year, and while partnered with All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams lit up Super Rugby with the Crusaders.

Robbie Fruean
Powerful centre Robbie Fruean has joined Edinburgh from Bath

Fruean has a history of heart problems, but was put through an extensive battery of medical checks before his move from Bath was confirmed. If he stays fit, the titan of Samoan lineage can be one of the league's most potent strike runners.

Head coach Richard Cockerill: "Anybody that knows me knows I'll have high expectations of the guys, and the bare minimum is they'll work hard and want to be committed.

"I'll probably put results before style in the first instance. We're here to try and win. Edinburgh supporters like to watch open, exciting rugby; I like to watch a team that wants to win, and that's what we're going to try and create first.

"I want to get across to everybody that this is a good side, we've got good players, and we've got to start to believe in our players. Last year we managed to find losses out of very positive positions in games - we've got to get some belief, and I think, because of the hard work we're doing, we're getting there."


After a campaign that promised so much, Leinster were left with another empty trophy cabinet last season. The province slipped off the top of the table during the final round of regular season matches and then suffered their semi-final defeat by the Scarlets, having previously lost to Clermont Auvergne in the European Champions Cup.

The arrival of Stuart Lancaster to work with head coach Leo Cullen midway through the 2016-17 season seemed to galvanise the players and it will be fascinating to see what they can achieve with a full pre-season to work with one of the most talented squads in Europe.

Stuart Lancaster
Former England boss Stuart Lancaster is on the Leinster coaching staff

Along with Zebre, Leinster will be among the first teams to make the trip to South Africa when they play the Southern Kings in round three and the Cheetahs in round four. However, the province will be without star men such as Johnny Sexton, Tadhg Furlong and Sean O'Brien for those matches, as their returning British and Irish Lions players won't be available until fifth round of fixtures.

Previous position: Beaten semi-finalists

Players in: Scott Fardy (Brumbies), James Lowe (Chiefs), Andrew Porter, Ross Byrne, Joey Carbery, Nick McCarthy, Rory O'Loughlin, Peader Timmins, James Ryan, Max Deegan (all promoted from academy).

Players out: Mike McCarthy, Zane Kirchner, Mike Ross, Dominic Ryan, Hayden Triggs.

One to watch: Leinster fans are eager to see what the mercurial James Lowe will add to their star-studded back-line but it is the debut of second row James Ryan which is being most eagerly anticipated. The former Ireland Under-20s captain is so highly rated that he made his full Test debut against the USA in June without having played a senior game for his province.

Scott Fardy
Australian back rower Scott Fardy has joined Leinster

Head coach Leo Cullen: "There's a desire for the team to push on and win something. We weren't far away last season. Sometimes when you have a really disappointing day like we did against Clermont in Europe it's very hard to get back up for the Pro12 semi-final, and who knows if we'd have done better on that day if we'd won in France?"


It all clicked for the Scarlets towards the end of last season with two glorious performances in Dublin against Leinster and Munster propelling Wayne Pivac's men to the championship title.

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Pro14: Five great moments from 2016-17

If they can recreate that winning brand of running rugby with Jonathan Davies, James Davies and Steff Evans at the forefront, and three-time British and Irish Lion Leigh Halfpenny their marquee addition at full-back, they will again be hard to stop.

The difference is now the Scarlets are there to be chased and we wait to see how they will react.

Previous position: Champions

Players in: Paul Asquith (Western Sydney Rams), Tom Grabham (Ospreys), Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon), Rhys Jones (Dragons), Tom Prydie (Dragons), Morgan Williams (Wales Sevens), Simon Gardiner (Llanelli RFC).

Players out: Morgan Allen, Rynier Bernardo, Peter Edwards, DTH van der Merwe, Gareth Owen, Matthew Owen, Richard Smith, Aled Thomas, Liam Williams.

Leigh Halfpenny
Full-back Leigh Halfpenny has returned to Wales to play for the Scarlets

One to watch: There were always concerns about how the Scarlets were going to fill the void left by the departed Liam Williams to Saracens. So why not swap one Wales and Lions full-back for another with the arrival of Leigh Halfpenny? Very different players but the hope is the Scarlets' style can help Halfpenny regain his attacking verve to complement his dogged defence and outstanding goal-kicking.

Head coach Wayne Pivac: "We played some good rugby last year and had some good results. Everyone will want to catch up and overtake us and we need to make sure we stay ahead of the pack.

"We want to get a faster start than last season and build from the word go. The fact we won last year counts for nothing this time around.

"It's a very big ask to defend the title as history would suggest, but therein lies the challenge for our group.

"There is always a new challenge and chapter."

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South African teams will ensure 'bigger, better' Pro14 says competition boss Martin Anayi

Southern Kings

Spare a thought for Deon Davids. After leading the poor relations of South Africa to a highly credible Super Rugby season with the axe of the governing bodies hanging over them, he has seen his squad utterly decimated before they begin life in the Pro14.

Captain and top points-scorer Lionel Cronje is off to Japan. Backs Makazole Mapimpi and Malcolm Jaer, who scored 17 of their 49 tries, have signed for the Cheetahs. Flying winger Wandile Mjekevu, who scored three more, is in France after his loan from the Sharks ended.

With only 15 players remaining from Super Rugby, a monstrous rebuild lies ahead. Once again, Davids will have to bake a cake from crumbs, relying on youngsters, free agents and loanees from unions with deeper pockets and larger squads.

Rossouw de Klerk
Kings prop Rossouw de Klerk was a member of Glasgow's 2015 title-winning squad

He will hope to unearth and polish a gem or two from within, while keeping things as simple as possible on the field - expect their debut Pro14 season to be punishing.

Previous position: N/A

Players in: Stephan Coetzee (loan, Sharks), Kurt Coleman (Stormers), Rossouw de Klerk (Grenoble), Rowan Gouws (loan, Sharks), Khaya Majola (loan, Sharks), S'bura Sithole (loan, Sharks), Dries van Schalkwyk (Zebre).

Lionel Cronje of the Southern Kings
Captain and stand-off Lionel Cronje was the Kings' top points-scorer in Super Rugby but has left for Japan

Players out: Martin Bezuidenhout, Thembelani Bholi, Chrysander Botha, Chris Cloete, Lionel Cronje, Christian de Bruin, Ross Geldenhuys, Siyanda Grey, Chris Heiberg, Irne Herbst, Malcolm Jaer, Makazole Mapimpi, Garrick Mattheus, Wandile Mjekevu, Waylon Murray, Tyler Paul, Wandile Putuma, Louis Schreuder, Johannes Steyn, Johann Tromp, Schalk van der Merwe, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Stefan Willemse, Mzwanele Zito.

One to watch: With Mapimpi, Jaer, and Mjekevu gone, exciting winger Yaw Penxe should come to the fore. Still just 20 years old, Penxe was an ever-present in South Africa Under-20's Junior World Championship campaign earlier this year, scoring two tries, and touched down twice more during Super Rugby, where the Kings' attacking verve won plenty admirers.

Head coach Deon Davids: "I've lost a couple of my key players to other unions because pro rugby wasn't confirmed, so obviously the challenge is to put forward a competitive squad.

"It is going to be important that we set our goals with the understanding that we want to improve and become very, very competitive in this competition.

Deon Davids
Davids' Kings face a trip to the champion Scarlets on the Pro14's opening weekend

"We're very excited, we think [the Pro14] is a fantastic opportunity which broadens the scope and experience of our player base in South Africa, and I think it's going to mean a lot for this Eastern Cape area, which has got a lot of talent."


Treviso broke free of the bottom two for the first time in four years last season, but a place in the league's top half has eluded them since their addition in 2010.

Kieran Crowley's men do, however, boast 28 Italian internationals, and a fearsome pack bolstered by the arrivals of tyro Federico Ruzza from Zebre and Super Rugby-winning co-captain Nasi Manu from Edinburgh, who will add energy and ballast to an already formidable back row.

In former All Black Crowley, they have a coach of some pedigree, who from his eight-year spell in charge of Canada, understands the sort of constraints he faces in Italian pro rugby.

Treviso try statistic
Treviso scored fewer tries than any other team in last year's Pro12

If they are to threaten the Champions Cup places, they will have to score an awful lot more tries than the measly 35 they managed last season - the lowest tally in the league - but they have strengthened their backline with the capture of centre Juan Ignacio Brex and Highlanders pivot Marty Banks.

Previous position: 10th

Players in: Marty Banks (Highlanders), Juan Ignacio Brex, Andrea Bronzini (both Viadana), Whetu Douglas (Crusaders), Irne Herbst (Southern Kings), Enjel Makelara (Petrarca Padova), Nasi Manu (Edinburgh), Sebastian Negri (Hartpury), Federico Ruzza (Zebre).

Players out: Filippo Gerosa, Davide Giazzon, Luke McLean, Davide Odiete, Alberto Rolando Porolli, Andrea Pratichetti, Roberto Santamaria, Guglielmo Zanini.

One to watch: Argentine centre Juan Ignacio Brex has stepped up from the Italian domestic top flight, where he was among the leading try-scorers, and his strength and off-loading ability should add potency to what has proved a limp Treviso attack. Brex, 24, is capped for Argentina at Under-20, sevens and A level.

Head coach Kieran Crowley: "We think we are further on than we were at this stage last year. I can't wait to get started now and measure where we are actually at in relation to other teams.

"We haven't changed a lot in terms of playing or coaching personnel, whereas in the past there has been a big turnover of players, so hopefully that stability will prove a positive point.

"We've brought in some good leaders too so hopefully that translates into more consistent performances."


It's something of a new broom for Ulster in coaching terms this season as highly-rated former Leinster and Clermont Auvergne forwards coach Jono Gibbes joins the Irish province as head coach.

He is flanked by former Wales and Lions scrum-half Dwayne Peel, recruited from Bristol, and ex-Leinster hooker Aaron Dundon, formerly at Grenoble.

Les Kiss is still at the helm as director of rugby and improvement will be expected after a hugely disappointing campaign last time out, in which Ulster failed to reach the semi-finals of the Pro12 and finished bottom of their Champions Cup pool.

Ruan Pienaar
Talismanic half-back Ruan Pienaar has left Ulster after seven years with the province

The loss of long-serving South Africa scrum-half Ruan Pienaar comes as a major blow, but incoming Wallabies back Christian Lealiifano, who has recovered from leukaemia, will add class and nous to the backline.

Ulster's main objective, of progression to the Pro14 play-offs, looks eminently achievable.

Previous position: Fifth

Players in: David Busby, Aaron Cairns (both academy), John Cooney (Connacht), Jean Deysel (Sharks), Ross Kane (academy), Christian Lealiifano (five-month loan, Brumbies), Rob Lyttle, Tommy O'Hagan, Jack Ownes (all academy), Schalk van der Merwe (Southern Kings).

Players out: Mark Best, John Donnan, Lorcan Dow, Conor Joyce, Ricky Lutton, Stephen Mulholland, Jonny Murphy, Ruan Pienaar, Roger Wilson.

One to watch: Having been given a glimpse of the kind of aggression and ball-carrying skills he can bring, the return of Springbok flanker Marcell Coetzee from injury will come as a major boost to Ulster. Equally important should be the contribution of hugely talented former All Black Charles Piutau, who has one more season to dazzle for Ulster, before heading to Bristol.

Director of rugby Les Kiss: "I'm really excited about the new Pro14. It's an ambitious move, which will have its challenges and they may not get everything right straight away. There are two good teams coming in and it's an exciting project going forward."