The best of Scotland’s club players can dust off their passports if the latest report coming out of Italy is to be believed. The Federation of Italian Rugby (FIR) announced last week dates for proposed matches to take place between Scottish clubs and those from Italy’s semi-professional “Eccellenza” league.
There are two dates in September and two in November with the possibility of another couple of rounds of matches in February/March of 2017.
The SRU will fund the competition to expose the club players to a higher level of rugby in an effort to bridge the ever widening gap between the amateur and the professional game.
While it is still possible for club players to make the step up into the pro ranks it is becoming increasingly difficult and rare now.
The SRU are yet to declare the make up of the teams to play the Eccellenza clubs and they aren’t short of options. They could choose club international A&B teams. They could opt for two teams based on the old districts, Edinburgh and the South, Glasgow and Caley, or they could simply stick with the most successful clubs, winner of the league and the cup, bolstered by some apprentices from the pro-team ranks.
Phil Smith coached the club international team to wins over their English and Irish counterparts this season but he also coaches Heriot’s in his day job. With a foot in both camps what sort of side would he like to see line up against the likes of Rovigo and Calvisano?
“I’d like for Heriot’s to have a tilt at it,” Smith replies. “I know from the club international games there is a real appetite for this from the club players, they want to stretch themselves at the next level.”