Jim Mallinder, Scottish Rugby’s new performance director, has played down outgoing Glasgow head coach Dave Rennie’s suggestion that the Guinness Pro14 season should be abandoned and the title handed to runaway Conference A leaders Leinster.
The Irish province have won all 13 of their games so far in the section they share with the Warriors, while Scottish rivals Edinburgh were top of Conference B at the time of the coronavirus shutdown.
“I think Dave probably had a bit of tongue in cheek when he said that,” said Mallinder. “I guess from an SRU point of view that was clearly a personal comment from Dave. From an SRU point of view we wouldn’t agree with that and I guess that Pro14 would probably have something to say, and I guess [Edinburgh head coach] Richard Cockerill would have something to say about it as well.
“I don’t think we’ve played enough matches to give the title to Leinster. Clearly they’ve had an outstanding start, and it’s been brilliant for them to go unbeaten, but there are other sides who are playing well.
“What we’ve said at the moment is that if there’s the season, then the play-offs, then the final, and that it’s the winner of that who should get it. That’s why I don’t agree that Leinster should be given it.”
The Pro14 are due to meet next week to re-appraise the situation and Mallinder added: “We know there is probably not going to be any rugby at least before June and we know that at the right time there will be a phased return to rugby in terms of individual training.
“We are already now looking at individuals coming into training facilities to build that up to smaller groups, and getting full contact. We’re looking at this from small groups all the way through to playing a game, initially behind closed doors, and then, ultimately – which we know will be quite a time a way – coming back to playing, hopefully, in front of full stadiums.”
“It is a difficult one and we know that in terms of the Pro14 next week they’ve got a review in terms of the scenario planning, with lots of scenarios to put in place.
“They are taking advice from all the unions, and the medical side, so we’re still very open-minded Pro14-wise about restarting or restructuring, whatever that might be, but at the moment no decision has been taken as yet.” Mallinder said he agreed with Rennie that any potential restructure should put player welfare foremost and an extended completion of the suspended season rolling straight into a new campaign would not be the answer.
“Yes, without a doubt, player welfare is massive,” he said. “We have to make sure that whatever we have in terms of season structure is right for the businesses and the players, but it’s a very difficult one.”