Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster has welcomed the potential addition of South African sides to the Guinness Pro14.
The province will be back in domestic action for the start of a new season less than two weeks on from their Heineken Champions Cup exit to Saracens when they take on Dragons at the RDS on Friday night.
The first 11 rounds of the Pro14 will feature European sides only due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, with South African incumbents Cheetahs unable to take part in the 2020-21 competition until January as a result and the Southern Kings having entered administration.
But organisers have been in talks about bringing in more South African franchises from 2021.
That prospect is one Lancaster said he is very open to.
"I think there is scope for development in the Pro14 and there is talk at the moment of potentially more South African sides coming in. I think that would be a positive personally," he said.
"I think that would add to the challenge which would be a good thing and without going too much into the evolution of club rugby in the world, I think it would be a good thing really for us."
Amid a challenging financial landscape for rugby in the wake of the pandemic, he added that the Leinster model, primarily based around the development of homegrown players, would remain key in spite of the push to stay competitive with the leading sides on the continent.
"That is the model of Leinster and I think it's a really good model. It breeds longevity and long-term sustainability," he said.
"You look at teams who have gone on to win European Cups, who were maybe 'buying clubs' - take a Toulon as an example - they have their days in the sun and they have their years.
"But is it sustainable? And I look at Exeter as an example and Toulouse now who are building a homegrown squad with one or two players from outside and I think that's very much the model that Leinster have and should persist with, particularly in the way in which the game is going to be challenged over the next 12, 18 or 24 months with the financial challenges that will face teams.
"To have a homegrown team, I think, is a real asset."
We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences
One challenge to overcome at the sharp end of the next season is how to bridge the power game gap. As highlighted on the RTÉ Rugby last week after the loss to Saracens, that facet was also evident in Ireland's most recent Six Nations match-ups against England.
But Lancaster feels that it is more nuanced than simply an issue of differences in power.
"It's probably too simplistic to say that," said the former England head coach.
"It wasn't that long ago that Ireland were winning Grand Slams and we won the European Cup.
"Yes, we've lost against Saracens twice now and Ireland have lost against England twice. I think the [2019 Champions Cup final] in Newcastle was nip and tuck actually.
"This game was different [last weekend]. In the four years I've been at Leinster, I've not seen us concede as many scrum penalties in any game.
"I don't worry about things like that because I know we can fix those things up technically. Perhaps one or two things didn't go our way that we felt should have done but that's rugby.
"But I think going on to the Ireland games and the England games coming around the corner, Ireland have got more than enough in their armoury to challenge England. It was probably more the kicking game in the last Ireland v England game that resulted in England getting that win.
"But the reality is, whether you're playing Saracens or England or the big teams in Europe, you have to do the fundamentals really well and on the day, we didn't do that well enough."
He also confirmed that Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong will not be available against Dragons but that his calf injury sustained shortly after recovering from a back issue is "not major". He should return in time for Ireland's Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup commitments from next month.