IAN Rankin, the president of the Scottish Rugby Union, believes that a district championship for the nation’s top club players should be re-introduced as a way of driving up standards and reducing the gap between the professional and the community game.
Discussions have taken place within Murrayfield about reconstituting the South, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Caledonia Reds, but problems with organising matches involving these teams in an already overloaded rugby calendar means that progress has been slow.
My gut feeling is if the 1st XV is your ceiling you’ll thwart people’s ambitionIan Rankin
“I’ve spoken for years about this, and last season the Caley Reds played a couple of games, but we have to look at the season structure. We’ve got league games, cup games, and we have to fit it around that. My gut feeling is that if the 1st XV is your ceiling then you’ll thwart people’s ambition,” said Rankin, who was speaking at an event to publicise the roll-out of a £400,000 investment in the infrastructure of 14 Scottish clubs from the SRU’s Club Sustainability Fund.
“I was involved in the club international team for four years and saw guys come through like Jon Welsh, who had missed the boat as a young kid, but played in the club international and went on from there. The districts could be part of that.”
“It’s in discussion. We’ve recognised the benefit it has given to age-grade rugby. We ditched the under-16, under-18 and under-20 age-grade championship, but that’s come back this year and I think it gives identity to the region and it gives kids something to aim for,” he added.
“I watched the South at the start and the standard wasn’t that great in the first game, but by the time they’d played three games it had really come together – because these guys were the best the region had to offer, and this was giving them the chance to step up a level.”
Rankin has championed the club game at Murrayfield and he says he is pleased with the progress which has been made on this front during the last two years.
“I think there has been a sea change,” he said. “When we were going through that really bad financial situation, I don’t think there is any doubt that clubs were parked up and left. Now the SRU have done a pretty good job of sorting out that financial situation, and there is a recognition from the people who are there – and, yes, there have been a couple of big nudges in the right direction – that without the club game we are stuffed.”