Currie captain hopes British and Irish Cup will be a crowd-puller

THERE may still be some champagne corks visible around Malleny Park, remnants of the successful season just past, but today Currie will join Ayr and Melrose in looking forward to the new season's British and Irish Cup with their skipper hoping it can pull the upturn in interest across the summer.

Ayr and Heriot's FP were Scotland's representatives in last year's inaugural competition along with Gael Force, a side made up of SRU academy and fringe professionals. That team has been dropped as it struggled to perform with different players coming in and out and so three club sides join forces this time.

The fixture list will be published this afternoon with Currie and Melrose involved for the first time and though the first round is not until December Andy Adam, Currie's second row skipper, is hopeful it will create a new excitement at Malleny Park.

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Adam, who has been with the club for over ten years and captained the 1st XV to their first Division One championship in 2006-7 and the 2009-10 title, said: "The guys are not back in for pre-season until next Tuesday, but I'm pretty sure the memories of the way last season finished will still be lingering there and this will provide something new to think about.

"There was a real buzz about the club as we built towards the league title.

"There was a huge crowd when Ayr came to visit, big crowd at West when we won it and another good crowd when we played Japan two weeks after, and that is the bottom line; it's what the game is about. It's what you want to play for.

"I'm not that sure what the British and Irish Cup will be like, and if you asked me if I would sacrifice a league win for a win in the cup, well, I don't think so, but if this helps lift interest in club rugby I'm all for it.

"Our players loved the bigger crowds and the guys from Ayr have talked about how their club was rocking for the British and Irish games so we're pretty keen on that."

The SRU and clubs have been trying in recent years to reverse the trend of falling club attendances and the British and Irish Cup, while untidy in the way it pitches English Championship clubs, some of whom are full-time, and Irish provincial reserve sides with amateur Welsh and Scottish clubs, was a miss with an injury-ravaged Heriot's, but a major hit with Ayr.

Adam is optimistic Currie can compete as Ayr did, but insisted that it also needed the union and clubs in Scotland to market it to enliven what he believes is an over-long league season.

"We have to do something to get crowds to club rugby," he said.

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"You'd never wish anyone to get relegated, but losing two Edinburgh clubs from Premier One might actually make the top league more interesting and the new split this season is different too.

"I don't know if I like it, but we had to do something to shorten the season. It has got far too long.

"It's becoming a nightmare for players to keep going, to keep training through crap weather never mind the games that go on and on, through the crap and then well into May now, but why would supporters also persist through a winter when games are off more often than not?

"When you have games off for a few weeks even the diehards lose interest and find something else to do.

"So, doing something to shorten the season will be good and the British and Irish Cup might excite some of our fans and give them more reasons to come out every week. But then it's up to the SRU and ourselves not to let that interest go."

Highlighting how crowd interest in the club internationals came and went, Adam added: "The club international was great when it was launched, but I don't know if there's the same backing for it now.

"The French have taken to it and are playing games with Belgium and Holland.

"I know there's pressure on our season, but if it's shorter then maybe when Japan come back we should look at the club international side playing them.

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"It was great for Currie to have, but it was late in the season and many players were unavailable, so making that a club international might be better to promote the club game in Scotland."

Adam, an oil salesman with Fuchs, added: "It's the same with this British and Irish Cup - you have to promote it and keep it at the forefront of people's minds if it's to be a success.

"Hopefully, we will play our part with Ayr and Melrose and give people something to shout about to get crowds back into the club grounds regularly. Then it will be a real success."

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