The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the French might say, but the FOSROC Super 6 is now upon us and must be considered the new normal.
After months and years of fractious debate the first weekend of the new part-time professional club league passed pretty well with some good games and decent crowds who seemed to enjoy the product on offer. Early days, but a promising start.
Rugby can often be overcomplicated by authorities, supporters and, yes, even the media, but it’s the players who make the whole world go around and those given the opportunity to take part in this new enterprise are clearly buying in.
The main focus of the initiative, which has been driven through by the SRU, may be the development of young talent but it offers opportunity for more senior stalwarts too, such as 31-year-old Heriot’s captain Iain Wilson.
It may never have been called “The Rumble in the Goldie Jungle” before, as today’s clash at Goldenacre has been billed, but he knows a Heriot’s v Watsonians match is always a big deal, whatever the competition.
“From the time I’ve been at Heriot’s that’s always been the one we’ve wanted to win, for bragging rights in the city,” said Wilson. “There’s a lot of rivalry there, from the two schools to the rugby clubs down the years. But it’s a friendly rivalry. Obviously a lot of the guys from both teams know each other and are pals off the field but you want those bragging rights.”
Former Howe of Fife and Dundee HSFP forward Wilson is one of the cluster of Fifers brought to Goldenacre by Phil Smith, the Dunfermline man and long-time boss who is holding the fort until appointed Super 6 coach Andrew Kelly arrives from Hong Kong in February.
“Yes, one of the many Fifers, which is quite nice,” said Wilson, now in his fifth season at Heriot’s. “That’s what attracted me to the club when I moved to Edinburgh for work, the close-knit family atmosphere and social side of things. I fitted in and worked my way up.”
Work continues for the skipper, and he revealed that the adjustment to part-time professional rugby has been smooth.
“I work for the NHS as a manager at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, organising theatres and surgery for patients,” he explained. “The rugby hasn’t impacted too much, it’s just an extra few gym sessions a week, normally Monday and Wednesday.
“But it’s been okay managing our time. Most of us have got full-time jobs. The main training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday we have to be there, and on time, to get that done, but outside of that there is flexibility. We have access to Edinburgh College gym through our partnership with them.
“It’s not been too much of a change for us. Obviously there has been more intensity, we’ve added in extra gym work on top of the two training nights a week, which is now compulsory.
“With Phil filling in as coach at the moment things have pretty much continued as we were doing last year with a bit of a step up. But I did notice on the pitch last week that there was a big step up in terms of speed and physicality. It was good we had that six months to build up to it because we were all fit and in good physical shape.”
Last week, Heriot’s got off to a 25-13 winning start against Ayrshire Bulls at Millbrae.
“We were pretty happy with how it went last weekend. Obviously it was a bit of going into the unknown,” said Wilson.
“We were pretty confident having had a long build-up to it and were really happy with the result. Hopefully same again this weekend.”
While the young bucks may be looking at Super 6 as a route to international stardom, guys such as Wilson are more realistic.
“For me currently it’s not in terms of going professional,” he said. “I’m 31 now and towards the end of my playing career but when I heard it was happening it was certainly something I wanted to do. It was something new and fresh, which was exciting, and the step up in intensity I thought would be something good before I do hang up the boots.”
And a few extra quid in the pocket is never a bad thing?
“Yeah it is quite nice. It’s not much but I’ve never been paid for playing rugby before,” said Wilson. “But at the end of the month it is quite nice to have a bit of extra beer money.”
Plus ça change!