Pro14 can become world's best league - Martin Anayi

Leinster and Edinburgh players
Leinster won last season's Pro14 with Edinburgh making the play-offs

Pro14 chief executive officer Martin Anayi believes the competition can usurp the French and English leagues to become the best in the world.

Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs joined Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams in the league last season.

Anayi says the South African sides' addition and an improved broadcasting deal has helped narrow the gap to the traditional major leagues.

"I don't think it's an enormous gap," Anayi told BBC Scotland.

"My job is to make sure this is the best league in the world on any metric you look at.

"We want our teams to be strong internationally, we want our teams to be strong in the European cups and we want our players to go on Lions tours and do great things for international honours. So we have a different reason for being [compared to the French and English leagues] and success is judged in that way.

"[Ireland, Wales and Scotland] were one-two-three in the Six Nations and they provided a highest amount of players ever to the British and Irish Lions.

"If you look at it in the full context of whether the tournament is doing its job, I think it is. Are we giving them the resources they need to compete? We are and that can improve. That's my job."

Dominic McKay, Scottish Rugby's chief operating officer and a Pro14 board director, is emphatic in his belief the league can be the envy of the rugby world.

"We would like it to be the best league in the world. Simple as that," McKay said.

"We believe we have the best players. We believe we have the right structure. We believe we have the right territories that we're in, and uniquely, because we are cross-border, it lends itself to many mini-internationals every week.

"We've got a way to go yet, we're chasing a few others, but we believe in the coming years that we can become the number one league in the world. That is our ambition and that's what we are working towards."

The two seven-team conferences from last season will continue into the new campaign with Cardiff Blues, Cheetahs, Glasgow Warriors, Munster, Ospreys and Zebre in Conference A and Benetton, Dragons, Edinburgh, Leinster, Scarlets, Southern Kings and Ulster in Conference B.

Defending champions Leinster open away to Cardiff on 31 August, when Ospreys host Edinburgh, and the remaining sides play their first matches on 1 September.

Anayi says "16 teams is the pinnacle format number" for the Pro14 but, despite reports of more South African teams coming and an ongoing interest in bringing in an American team, there are no new additions to the league imminent.

"Our competition format allows us to expand further without just adding more games," Anayi continued.

"One of the critical things we had if we did want to expand further you wouldn't just want to add more games. Overall you might want to reduce. Up the quality, lessen the quantity.

"Who those two extra teams are, it's quite fun to find out over the next few years and we have to make sure when they come in, whoever it is, they are very competitive from the outset. It's going to be exciting so we'll wait and see."

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