Monday night rugby proving ‘problematic’ for Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors

I Don’t Like Mondays could be the soundtrack for Scotland’s two pro teams this month as they try to remain competitive in the Guinness Pro14 without their battalions of international players.

Edinburgh beat Cardiff Blues at a misty Murrayfield on Monday night. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Edinburgh beat Cardiff Blues at a misty Murrayfield on Monday night. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Edinburgh managed it this week, beating Cardiff at a misty Murrayfield, but Glasgow went down in Belfast, losing heavily to Ulster.

Monday night rugby is a new concept this season, cooked up by the league and broadcaster Premier Sports, and features Scottish sides in seven matches in November alone.

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It’s not universally popular, chiefly because it deprives Edinburgh and Glasgow of their Scotland players, including the ones who don’t make the cut for the national side and would usually be released back to their clubs.

Glasgow Warriors lost to Leinster in the first Monday night game. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

They are staying with the Scotland squad because Monday and Tuesday are important training days and Gregor Townsend needs 30 to 35 players.

The issue first became apparent to the Scotland coach in the build-up to the Six Nations match in Llanelli. He explained: “A couple of things happened as we led up to the Wales game. The first one was, although we knew this already, that the Monday games were going to be very problematic.

“We need to train, just like the pro teams, with two teams to be able to get ourselves prepared, whether that’s scrum or lineout, or backline plays, and our big training sessions are Monday/Tuesday to do that, and that’s always been the case.

“Every international team trains with 30-plus players Monday and Tuesday. Some in the past have released players back to their clubs on the Wednesday or Thursday - we’ve always done that.

“The week of the Wales game we released 11 players even though Ireland and Wales didn’t but the Monday night games make that irrelevant. If you release a player back on a Tuesday or Wednesday, they’ve missed the chance to play, so that’s a major change because our clubs are playing on Mondays.”

Unsurprisingly, Covid has also caused issues.

“During the build-up to the Wales game we had five Glasgow players who had to be isolated, so they couldn’t train with us because of the positive case that came out of their game with Ospreys, which ended up meaning three Ospreys players were taken out of their next game. Glasgow players, after testing and decisions made, weren’t taken out of their game, but that just highlighted the risks we have of players going from camp-to-camp.

“We want to minimise that, but really it’s the Monday night games that have made it almost impossible for us to be able to train and prepare a team and have players going back to play [for their clubs].

“We will look to see if that changes - Glasgow aren’t playing this week, Edinburgh play [Leinster] on a Monday which makes it difficult.

“Our six-day turnaround between France and Fiji make things challenging too but if we feel that we can reduce our squad because we’ve got enough players for training then we would look at one or two guys dropping back, but it won't be the case this week or next week.”

With Glasgow losing four of their first five Pro14 matches of the season and Edinburgh losing three of theirs, these are tough times for our pro sides and the Monday night scheduling is not helping.

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