Former Scotland captain Gary Armstrong has called for Edinburgh and Glasgow’s professional teams to be franchised in order to free up money to create a third force once again in what he called the Borders “heartland”.
As the crisis engulfing Scottish rugby following defeat by Tonga and the departure of coach Andy Robinson rumbles on, Armstrong feels root-and-branch surgery is required. He also rings alarm bells for the traditional club game which he feels has suffered neglect in making plain the fact that a top-down policy as implemented by successive Murrayfield regimes is not working.
“They made a big mistake getting rid of the Borders,” said Armstrong in a reference to the 2009 cull. “If you look back at history when the South was going well we had a good Scottish team.
“It was the heart of rugby for a long time. (Now) players in clubs have nowhere to go. They had businessmen who would have taken over Edinburgh or Glasgow. They should have franchised these teams off and supported the Borders.”
A Murrayfield decision to sell Edinburgh to the Carruthers brothers led to conflict over release of players for international squad training while the private owner was left to foot the wage bill.
Armstrong insists if franchising had been persisted with then the game would be better. “There would be more players playing top level rugby.
“We have players contracted at the moment and they are not getting games. It is a shame. Rugby careers are short.
“If you look at the (traditional) club game in the Borders there is nobody playing, there is not an incentive to climb up the ladder.”
Armstrong, who believes there is some player migration to the cities, nevertheless insisted: “When I first went to Jed-Forest they could put four teams out. They struggle to put a team and a half out today. They have to go raking about the streets on a Thursday to get teams out. A lot of Borders teams are exactly the same. We have to keep players at the grassroots playing right through instead of losing them halfway through their careers.”