Scotland to sit out new Celtic Cup

IRFU performance director David Nucifora sees value in the new competition. Picture: Getty Images
IRFU performance director David Nucifora sees value in the new competition. Picture: Getty Images
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Remember the old Celtic Cup? Well, there is a new look Celtic Cup this year and instead of getting involved Scotland are sitting on the sidelines.

The new competition involves the A-teams of all four Irish provinces and Welsh regions. They are split into two pools with the Irish in one and the Welsh in another.

Every Welsh region will play every Irish province and just two of the other three Welsh regions. The roles are obviously reversed for the Irish pool. The tournament will run over seven consecutive weeks starting on Friday 7 September and culminating with a final between the leaders of each pool at the end of October.

In explaining why Dublin had backed this new venture, the IRFU’s performance director, Australian David Nucifora, said: “The Celtic Cup will bring significant value to the development of our emerging professional players, referees, coaches and support staff. It will challenge them to perform and manage themselves within a professional competition structure throughout a week-to-week campaign similar to the Guinness Pro14.

“The Celtic Cup is also a fantastic vehicle for the development of our next tier of coaches who will have to take the learnings from games each week to drive performance across the competition.

“The IRFU are cognisant of the important role that our domestic club competitions play in the development of young players. The scheduling of the Celtic Cup is intended to be complementary to the club game and create a supportive season structure into the future.”

The entire competition is done and dusted before the end of October and it seems unlikely, at the start of the season when injuries to the professional players will be minimal, that many if any club players will be called up to the provincial/regional A-teams. So Scottish Rugby could have joined the party without affecting the Scottish clubs in any meaningful way. Instead they have placed all their bets on the Super 6 horse, as a spokesman underlined.

“Scottish Rugby is invested in raising the standard of the club game in Scotland through the development of the new Super 6 competition, while ensuring our professional teams, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, remain competitive in the Guinness Pro14 and Heineken Champions Cup.”

Interestingly Murrayfield refused to rule out joining the Celtic Cup at a future date. With the introduction of Super 6, Scottish Rugby are trying to narrow the gap between the club game and the pro-teams, which may appear admirable on the face of it, but has anyone asked why?

As things stand there is a gaping chasm between the clubs and the pro-tier.

After the introduction of the Super 6, the gap may narrow but only marginally. The gaping chasm will remain. Any player hoping to make a simple step up from Super 6 and into the Warriors starting XV will get a nasty shock.

The Irish have taken a very different route in clubland. The IRFU is trying to persuade the clubs to go from one ten-team top tier to two eight-team leagues so the unwanted professionals can drop down into a club local to them – a system which is strangely similar to the status quo in Scotland.

Scotland’s concentration of talent into six teams would appear to make more sense although the downsides are well documented; the destruction of club rivalries that go back more than 100 years and the loss of goodwill and finance from the supporters.

And every penny spent on Super 6 means less money for the pro-teams who are already playing catch-up with Leinster, Munster and the Scarlets.