Inter District campaign has professional intent

The Inter District Championship returns to the Scottish rugby calendar a fortnight today, a prelude to what many at Murrayfield hope will be the re-establishment of a professional tier containing four teams.

If that scenario may be some way off and is reliant on sufficient financial and playing resources being in place, then the revival of the 46-year-old competition offers a credible platform for those hoping for a full-time career in the game.

That much is evident in the composition of the four squads from Caledonia, Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders unveiled yesterday.

If there are certain players -such as Kirkcaldy's Danny Herrington and Heriot's Jocky Bryce - who come into the veteran category, there is also a healthy percentage of young talent from the club scene.

Jim Telfer, the SRU's director of rugby, insisted that the resurrection of a tournament temporarily abandoned after Edinburgh's win two years ago should help identify players capable of breaking into the professional game.

"When we changed from four to two districts, the top of the tree was lopped off," he said.

"In launching this championship I think it has put the top of the tree back and it is a chance for the best young players in the clubs to aspire to the next rung of the ladder. There is a gap between the top of the club game and the professional tier and the championship is an opportunity to try to bridge that gap."

While would-be professionals may compete for as few as half-a-dozen contracts with the Glasgow Caledonians and Edinburgh Reivers superteams, many players listed have already been identified for inclusion in the Scottish Institute of Sport's support programme for potential internationals, a group which will be finalised over the next fortnight.

Reivers fringe players Mark Lee and Kevin Utterson are two professional players included in the Borders squad, while Reds reserve scrum half Fraser Stott is listed in the Glasgow squad. Otherwise, the bulk of the squads will be young players, with their long-term development the aim.

"Each team wants to win -that is important - but we are hoping that at this time of year the players and coaches will try to make them as entertaining as possible," added Telfer.

He also confirmed the Scottish Exiles are likely to rejoin the championship next year, but only on the basis of fielding mainly amateur players - not those playing in the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

The Edinburgh v Glasgow game at Malleny Park on 26 April will double as the annual Inter-City fixture, while the same points scoring system will be used as is employed in domestic rugby, with bonus points awarded.

Fixtures:

26 April: Edinburgh v Glasgow, Malleny Park, 7pm; Caledonia v Scottish Borders, Beveridge Park, 7pm.

3 May: Glasgow v Scottish Borders, Braidholm, 7pm; Caledonia v Edinburgh, Beveridge Park, 7pm.

10 May: Scottish Borders v Edinburgh, Philiphaugh, 7pm; Glasgow v Caledonia, Millbrae, 7.30pm.