South African sides' arrival in PRO12 a step closer
Although he refused to confirm the seemingly inevitable arrival of South African franchises Southern Kings and Cheetahs into the Guinness PRO12 from next season, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said the competition has to expand if it is to keep pace with its rivals in England and France.
There are huge logistical challenges with the inclusion of two more teams who are operating in a different hemisphere, at least half-a-day's travel away.
Both franchises have lost their Super Rugby status as that competition scales back and are preparing to be accepted into what was once the Celtic League from the beginning of next season, opening up a potentially lucrative new television market.
The expansion is not expected to end there, with clubs from North America and further afield in Europe in negotiations to join the league.
A decision on the South Africans' entry could be confirmed at a meeting of the PRO12's board next week, with the league set to be split into two conferences of seven teams.
"The risk of doing nothing with the PRO12 in the long-term is the greater risk," said Browne.
"We'll keep doing the same thing, getting the same result and fall further behind Top 14 and PRL (if we do nothing)," he added.
The IRFU yesterday reported a deficit of €2.8m which came in under their initial projection of €4.7m.
They have committed €1.5m to delivering next month's Women's World Cup and Brown said tickets for the knock-out stages in Belfast are progressing well.