Scots trio confident of fitting in British & Irish Cup ties

THE three Scottish clubs involved in the British and Irish Cup remain hopeful that their postponed matches will go ahead in the new year.

Melrose could be first up if their plans to play Esher a week on Monday get the green light from the Londoners. Despite having Netherdale ready for play on Saturday, their game was postponed after the English Championship club's flight was grounded by Gatwick's snow- enforced closure.

There are no dates in the calendar for rescheduling these cup matches as the competition was shoe-horned into the season. However, Melrose director of rugby Mike Dalgetty insisted that their first game in the tournament, against Munster, had proved such a success for the club despite the fact that they lost heavily to what was a full-time Irish side, that they are keen to keep it going. "Our players loved that game against Munster even though their experience and fitness told in the second half. But up to half-time the boys did brilliantly, especially as we hadn't trained for two weeks, and they learned a lot from it. We are in touch with Esher now and have penciled in 3 January, which is a Bank Holiday, and are waiting to hear if they can get flights organised. That would mean us giving up our Border League game with Hawick due for that day, but realistically this is the only date we could play Esher whereas we could play Hawick, hopefully, at another time.

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"Gala have been brilliant to us and if the Greenyards hasn't thawed out by then we will play the game at Netherdale. They have a fantastic facility there and Gala showed the benefits of it at the weekend by hosting their own game with Peebles as well as two European matches with Newcastle and Sale."

Melrose are at Netherdale on Monday 27 December as well, with a 2nd XV match at 1.30pm and the traditional Waverley Cup game between Gala and Melrose kicking off at 3pm.

The problems of fitting the British and Irish Cup into the season have been exacerbated by the recent snowfalls. The pool matches have to be played before the end of February, with the knock-out stages coming fast. Welsh side Llandovery travelled up to Ayr at the weekend only for their game at Millbrae to be frozen off. However, Ayr coach Kenny Murray is hopeful that that could be rescheduled with a little help from the SRU's Championship Committee and Dunfermline RFC. "Llandovery have requested 12 February, when we're due to play Dunfermline in a cup match, as the only date they can find free. We'll see what the championship committee and Dunfermline feel about postponing that game."

Currie are also working on a new date for their postponed match with Worcester, who had travelled most of the way to Edinburgh by coach last Friday before the plan to play on Murrayfield's 4G pitch was aborted.