NEWS that the Scottish Rugby Union has withdrawn its participants from the British and Irish Cup will have been met with mixed emotions yesterday.
The governing body announced that they had reluctantly withdrawn the top four teams in the Premiership last season from next year’s cross-border competition because of dissatisfaction with the way games have been scheduled. “Discussions over the competition structure have been difficult and protracted and we have done everything in our power to try to influence a solution that would meet the needs of all participants. Regrettably, this has not been achieved and the B&I Cup pool dates have been set for two blocks of three fixtures either side of the autumn international window,” explained Colin Thompson, director of rugby operations for the SRU.
The crux of the problem is that it suits the English Championship clubs to get the pool games out of the way before Christmas so that they can build momentum in their own domestic programme during the second half of the season. However, the Scottish club game has had major problems in recent years getting their fixture schedule completed in the face of hostile weather conditions and cannot afford to sacrifice too many weekends during the milder pre-Christmas period.
“We simply could not support six B&I cup games in the first half of the season as this would have a significant impact on the integrity of our own BT Premiership competition,” said Thompson.
During its five-year history, the competition has divided opinion in this country on the question of whether it is a valuable tool for progress which has pushed up standards at the top