Plan to split leagues in reshuffle of club game

PROFESSIONAL and up-and-coming contracted young players will have much more interaction and involvement with the country's top clubs if the proposed season structure backed by Scottish Rugby and Premier One, Two and Three goes ahead.

The move is part of plans to close the gap between the professional and community game in the country while also raising the standards within the club game.

The proposal, which will be voted on at the Scottish Rugby agm later this month, would see the 12 Premier One and Two clubs playing each other once.

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Following this they would then split into three pools of eight with the top eight fighting it out for the Premier One title, the middle eight for Premier One and Two relegation and promotion and the bottom eight for Premier Two survival.

And professional players and the contracted youngsters would train with clubs – and play if released – on a much more regular basis than they ever have done in previous seasons. The pros would be redrafted to the top eight after the split too.

A new cup format including the Premier Three clubs would also come into being with nine pools being played out prior to the knock-out stages.

Dundee HSFP coach Ian Rankin believes the proposed season structure shows that everyone is working hard together to improve the standard of Scottish rugby.

He said: "Having spoken to my players about the proposals they think they are really exciting and I think it has been great to see the clubs, Graham Lowe (Scottish Rugby's director of performance] and Colin Thomson (Scottish Rugby's head of community rugby] working together on this proposal over the last few months.

"With things like the club international we have managed to raise the level of club rugby to some extent and under this structure this would continue with every game having meaning and the pro players and age-grade players feeling more part of a club."

Thomson said: "I think this is a great opportunity for rugby in Scotland if the proposal is passed at the AGM so I would urge all clubs to back the structure as the Premier clubs already have done."

Under the proposals the season would start earlier on 21 August with the first 11 league matches played on consecutive weekends until 30 October. One cup match would then be played before four post-split matches prior to Christmas.

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There would then be a league break from 4 December to 29 January before the leagues and cup would come to a conclusion on 2 and 16 April respectively. Premier Three would be played out as it was in 2009/10.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed three clubs – Currie, Ayr and Melrose – will compete in the second British & Irish Cup.