League structure for 2024-25 season confirmed

Melrose and Watsonians added to a 12-team Premiership, while Stirling County and Boroughmuir return to National One

Melrose and Watsonians will reunite in the Premiership next season. Image: John Williamson
Melrose and Watsonians will reunite in the Premiership next season. Image: John Williamson

THE PREMIERSHIP will run as a 12 team league next season, with Watsonian FC and Melrose – the ‘Club XVs’ of Watsonians and Southern Knights Super Series teams – promoted from National One into the top tier.

Meanwhile, the ‘Club XVs’ of Stirling County and Boroughmuir will be elevated into National One from National Two and National Three respectively.

In the following season [2025-26] the Premiership and National Leagues will return to 10-team competitions. This will be achieved by three clubs being relegated from the Premiership and one promoted from National One at the end of next season, three teams relegated from National One and one promoted from National Two, two teams relegated from National Two and one promoted from National Three, with one team relegated from National Three and one promoted from National Four.

Further consultation will now take place with clubs with teams in National Leagues Two and Three to discuss the implications of creating nine team leagues in season 2024-25.


Six Nations: Grant Gilchrist says Scotland players, not coaches, are to blame for lapses

Coming soon … TOL’s round table discuss the male performance pathway

Chris Stewart joins Scottish Rugby Limited Board


This restructuring of the leagues for next season is in response to the announcement last month that Super Series – the part-time professional league which sat above the traditional club game since 2019 – will not continue beyond the original five-year license agreement.

As part of the original license agreement, the six clubs which were selected to set-up teams for the league had their ‘Club XVs’ dropped from the Premiership into National One. Since then, Heriot’s and Ayr ‘Club XVs’ have gained promotion back into the Premiership, Melrose and Watsonians have stayed in National One, Stirling County were relegated to National Two, and Boroughmuir suffered back-to-back relegations into National Two.

The challenge after the demise of Super Series was to find a league structure for next season which did not unfairly punish clubs for taking part in Super Series, whilst also avoiding the other clubs being disadvantaged as a consequence of this change in the club landscape.

A focus group was appointed to consider the way forward and a consultation process was carried out, with seven options on the table, before a final decision was made by the Club Rugby Board at a meeting last night.

“This was always going to be a difficult decision to come to,” said Scottish Rugby Vice-President and CRB Chair, Keith Wallace. “We have followed a consultative, robust and constructive process.”

“I’m pleased we’ve reached a positive outcome, and we now have clarity on a way forward for the coming season, which will allow preparations to begin.”

 

 

Discussions will now be initiated to understand how these changes to the 1st XV structure may impact the Reserve Leagues and what clubs wish to see for their reserve teams next season.

Furthermore, during the consultation process there was a groundswell of opinion across all leagues to stop player payments in the Premiership and the CRB has initiated a review and will report back in due course.

“We were always mindful there will some disruption for this transition season on clubs somewhere within the league structure however we now have clarity on the way forward,” said Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development, Gav Scott.

“We’ve been encouraged by the level of engagement and collaboration from clubs across the country. They have helped to ensure there was a wide range of views informing the CRB to make its decision.”

Further communications about the 2024-25 season will be released later.

 

More to follow …

 

 

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Six Nations: Grant Gilchrist says Scotland players, not coaches, are to blame for lapses

About David Barnes 3908 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

63 Comments

  1. Surely for the clubs that lost a lot of their best players to Super Sixes and have had to regroup this is just another kick in the ….. for community club rugby?

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  2. “We have followed a consultative, robust and constructive process.” (Keith Wallace, SR V-P & CRB chairman). More laughs next week?

    A clunky, siloed, myopic and excessively hierarchical Union run by unschooled wobblies.

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  3. S6 ( just S because there was never anything ‘super’ about it) has been rewarded.
    The sru aim is to favour their favourites.
    The aim clearly to get their 6 pals back into the prem by april 25.
    Nobody who knew anything was ever in any doubt that this would be the forced outcome.
    Really disappointed. I thought keith wallace was elected as a man to look after clubs…..
    I see the handling of peebles,for example, as terrible and many other clubs like them just trodden on to ensure that the clubs who took the shilling can be rewarded. I fear for clubs like jed who may now take an eternity to get back up, for hawks who may have been placed in league jeopardy going forward again after being scandallously snubbed ifo bmuir for a S6 berth, and highland who have risen brilliantly but may struggle to get promoted against the miraculous leapfrogging of stirling and bmuir.
    S6 produced practically absolutely sadly nothing for the betterment of pro rugby, this latest genetic engineering of our club game is as predictable as it is embarrassing.

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    • Rory, Wallace has been taken under the wing of Dodson. I see a bright future ahead.

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    • It’s all about perspective Rory and by the way, let he who is without sin cast first stone. I recall that Hawick applied to be part of S6 and were unsuccessful. Had they got it and ended up in Boroughmuir’s position then no doubt you’d have a different view on things. Whether right or wrong a decision has been made and we need to move on. Next year’s premiership will be interesting and actually pretty exciting as I see it. Hawick v Melrose derby to look forward to as well. The standard of rugby will be higher and a strong Hawick squad will be challenged to raise their game to a new level.

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      • Sorry.. don’t agree.
        These teams should have been made to work their way back up..the same as everyone else(and I’m a B’muir supporter).
        The Premiership has already been very competitive and entertaining these last few years and there has also been plenty of Border derbys provided by Hawick, Selkirk Kelso and Jed.
        These teams should not have to be penalised because the S6 was a disaster.

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  4. I can’t believe no one has spotted the maths flaw. Surely 5 teams need to be relegated from Nat 1 to get it to a 10 team league.
    Presumably
    – the 3 relegated from the Premiership with go to Nat 1
    – 1 Nat 1 team promote to Premiership
    – 1 team from Nat 2 promoted to Nat 1
    – that leaves 15 teams before relegation
    – so 5 must go down

    Assume also 4/5 more go down from Nat 2 as well.

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  5. It’s the most sensible solution. You can’t really penalise the S6 clubs for showing ambition and most clubs would have taken the opportunity had they been given it. At the same time Boroughmuir and Stirling having allowed their club sides to drop so low doesn’t really warrant them being put straight back to the top so I think it’s sensible.

    I do, however, worry that there will be a gulf in class between the likes of Ayr & Heriots who had top S6 sides and Kelso, Musselburgh, Selkirk etc who will not likely benefit from the disbanding of S6.

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    • As a few others have said, joining the S6 wasn’t some sort of rebel league (think LIV golf). It was set up by the same governing body and a lot of the top clubs applied for it. The whole concept was divisive but the six who joined are still some of the ‘biggest’ clubs and should therefore be at or near the Prem. They also needed to know what level they would play at ASAP as they can then try and retain players and importantly the S6 players can have as much time to figure out where they will play next year (hopefully in the Prem/N1 rather than leaving. I doubt that many of them were on enough money that made it a ‘full career’.
      I’m against the no payments motion. Each club should operate to its means. If some clubs can offer some cash to players as incentive to train regularly etc that will promote a higher standard.

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  6. Do you think the current S6 players are going stay in the clubs esp those in Nat 1. Stupid decision. All S6 sides should have been added to prem. Many will go down south but those that remain will go to Prem side, they wont stay in Nat 1.

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    • Many Super 6 players had no affiliation with their Clubs and were only there for the cash. Knights and Wolves players were never staying when the money stopped coming.

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  7. Mike oxlong grow up billy mcharg the SRU love child / poster.You will go some distance to meet some one as passionate about scottish rugby.Billy and his committee work tirelessly to attract sponsors and members to there club.Yes and all for the love of the game.

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  8. Why is there a clamour to prevent players from being paid, surely if clubs can raise enough sponsorship or donations to fund paying players that is their business and nobody else’s. If its a level playing field folk want then clubs need to be better at raising funds to pay players instead of complaining about the ones who do. Its a bit like holding the the clever kids back at school and making them learn at the same pace as the ones who are not as bright.

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    • Super 6 was introduced with Agenda 3. One of the key planks of this was clubs would not be permitted to pay players. Club officials are required to state, under penalty of sanction from the Union that players are not being paid or in “jobs” for the club.

      I know it’s difficult to keep up with all the elements in Scottish rugby but that’s a basic one.

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      • I am sure that is the case but my point was, why should it be the case, clubs should be permitted to spend their own funds however they see fit, it is their money. The genie was let out the bottle in 1995 and it is not going back in. As has been said on this thread elsewhere if players are not rewarded financially for the amount of time, effort and commitment they out into the game, especially at the very top of the club game then they will either quit or just not commit as much time to training or S&C, either way the standard on the field suffers and our club game falls even further behind that of other nations and produces less players capable of playing pro rugby and international rugby.

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    • If you did that clubs should be made to follow strict rules and be subject to regular audits lest they go bust , could look at The Australian Rugby league funding model ans an example as to how to properly fund a club game

  9. There appears to be a notion going about that the Super 6 experiment was an unsanctioned attempted breakaway from the Union and that the participants were wrong. To the best of my recollection 14 clubs applied to take part in the SRU’s programme, including my own club, Currie. We were unsuccessful but I always hoped that we would join an expanded Super 8 or 10. People appear to forget that our 2 professional clubs were increasingly reluctant to release their players to a club environment which wasn’t challenging for professionals. Where Scottish rugby goes from here is now anybodies guess, however, a decision has been made and now it’s time to try and make it work. At Currie,it will no doubt mean an increase in membership to keep the club competitive but we always rise to the challenge.

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  10. Super Series was scrapped allegedly to ensure that a New Player Pathway is to be put in place to provide opportunity for the young players of Scotland. First Act of this new way of thinking, place the two clubs with the most successful youth systems in Scotland over many years into the second tier of Scottish Rugby! You couldn’t make it up! Sorry I forgot, it’s the SRU. Just watch Scottish Rugby slide into the backwater of World and European rugby.

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    • John I don’t think you can blame the SRU for Muir and County mismanagement of their club sides. With the great youth systems implace they should never have dropped down to where they are.

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    • They’ve both been promoted without playing a game John. Their most successful youth systems as you put it have produced squads who are currently in National 2 and 3. If I were Stirling or Boroughmuir I’d be counting my lucky stars.

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      • By that token they were both relegated (when the not-so-Super Six was set-up) without playing a game as well.

    • I have always said Clubs who produce good players through a youth system should be compensated by the higher up Club who take them. Otherwise why keep producing players

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  11. Lots of arguments about if its right or wrong but at least a decision has been made and Clubs have clarity so they can prepare for next season.

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  12. Here’s is another angle.

    This is demotion for all the S6 sides. Those players who train on pitch maybe 3 times a week and are in the gym with a full support team for both are demoted to the Prem or Nat 1. These supposed top player in the country will all want the highest rugby they can get to ensure their ambitions of selection to a pro contract are reached. There are 30 to 40 players in each S6 squad. where are they all going to end up??

    Those S6 clubs already in the Prem have to put S6 players into their prem side – their prem side become their 2nd XV and their 2nd XV (nee 1st XV) would become their 3rd XV. I’m struggling to think how players at Heriots and other S6 will view that. In the new structure there will be a Heriots 2nd XV that has beaten most of the teams in Prem. If they retain S6 players they will walk the prem and are about to be joined by Ayr and Watsonian and Melrose – 2 of which will go up on merit.

    What out prem – its going to be very different and those that viewed this as unfair promotion for Nat 1/2/3 team – look at it from another angle – this is unfair demotion for S6 sides and the neg impact on our player stature.

    Where will the ambitious S6 players go??

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    • Do you think the current S6 players are going stay in the clubs esp those in Nat 1. Stupid decision. All S6 sides should have been added to prem. Many will go down south but those that remain will go to Prem side, they wont stay in Nat 1.

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    • The problem with rugby players who have ambitions to become professional is that there are very few clubs who have the money to pay them. They can take a chance and move to England but most clubs there only one sugar daddy away from financial collapse. There is more money in France and apparently Japan but they only need so many players.

    • I very much agree. This season, with the exception of perhaps Jed who struggled, it has been very competitive and not a lot of one sided games. I fear this may change next year with a huge gulf in class between Ayr, Heriots and Watsonians, who will likely have a lot of S6 players making up their club sides next year, and the likes of Kelso, Selkirk, Musselburgh & Hawks.

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      • The Premiership will be cut to 10 teams at the end of the first season. That will be the top ten teams in Scottish club rugby. Selkirk, Kelso etc have a season to show that they deserve a place in the top ten. If not successful, the bottom two in the league will be relegated. That is the way competitive sport works. Teams that struggle in the Premier will likely find they are more competitive and do better in National 1.

  13. Some people clearly not happy at these decisions but I’m guessing one man’s meat is another’s poison and it is nigh impossible to keep everyone happy.
    The decision to prevent player payments in the Premiership is bewildering though.
    Of course in an ideal world we would all want to see fairness in a league with the winning team having no advantage over the others but above all else we need to see an improvement in the National team. 2 professional teams doesn’t produce the conveyor belt of talent we need.
    Surely player payments would keep some of the S6 players from walking away and would encourage clubs to be more dynamic and generate income in order to keep and grow their own talent?
    To restrict the entire league structure to amateur status only encourages the blazer brigade who want nothing to change.
    Scottish rugby was 10 years later than most other unions in adopting professionalism and the National team is only now just about catching up. I can’t see what any of this will do to help.
    The Super6 failed to evidence a pathway for future talent but it was better than nothing.

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  14. This going to be fun.
    Interesting to see how policing not paying players will work. Time for some creative accounting methinks

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    • Hi Jim so if not aloud player payment so that will mean no Edinburgh or Glasgow professional players or academy players will be able to play in the Premiership which won’t be good for scottish rugby

    • A few new janitors, groundsmen and clearers going to be recruited methinks not that you’ll ever see a brush in their hands

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  15. “a groundswell of opinion across all leagues to stop player payments in the Premiership” – that’ll be the end of any ambition (however slight) of the Premiership being a bridge to the pro-game then.

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    • Or it’ll bring back a lot of clubs having “community coaches” “player coaches” and misc staff on the books that just so happen to play for the 1st XV…

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  16. It looks a sensible way to proceed. The S6 clubs did what they were asked to do in S6, for what was seen as the good of the national game.

    They cannot and should not be punished for that!

    This arrangement looks fair to all and a good enough compromise.

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    • Why should clubs like Peebles be punished??? What did they do wrong to not be allowed promotion that they earned ??

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      • They will still get promoted. With Ayr, Watsons and Melrose Going up to the Premiership, and GHK being relegated there is 6 teams remaining in Nat 1. Add Peebles, Stirling, Muir and Jed you have 10.

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      • Rugby Fan, I read it as Peebles will be in Nat 1 next year as winner of Nat 2(probably)
        It’s then up to them to stay there, the promotion & stopping player payments may help them get a few players back from other clubs or retain their promising youngsters.
        From the outisde looks like a good example or a club focusing on developing talent.

      • Has the SRU actually detailed what will happen about promotion and relegation yet?

        It looks logical and simple enough to have normal promotion and relegation, it wouldn’t affect the S6 changes.

        Premier – Jed Forest relegated, Ayr promoted

        N1 – GHK relegated, Peebles promoted

        N2 – Aberdeen Grammar relegated, Preston Lodge promoted

        N3 – Hamilton relegated, Garnock promoted

        Don’t see a problem with normal service continuing, bottom club relegated, top club promoted. Should also extend to the bottom 3 in N4 being relegated, as normal, to make way for the top 3 regional sides being promoted.

        I hope we are not going to start changing the rules here and making unnecessarily heavy weather of this simple exercise.

    • Players in S6 will not stick around the clubs placed in Nat 1. All S6 teams should be placed in prem

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  17. I’m sorry but this is an absolute joke. I think I speak for most that the Scottish rugby community was in sheer joy when Dodson resigned/stepped down/whatever you want to call it. But it seems like it’s been further dunces that have been filled in his place.
    How can you fairly place a mid table Nat Two and Three team into the second tier of AMATEUR Scottish Rugby. This is all based on current super six players staying at respective clubs and not playing elsewhere. Where does that leave players that were loyal to their clubs from the start? This whole fiasco could be the downfall of club rugby in Scotland as a whole. Correct me if I’m wrong but, was it not long ago when the Hawks idea was a bit of a mess and caused GHK and Glasgow Accies to start again from the regional leagues? GHK who may have been in a ‘Galactico’ era under Peter Wright, got to Nat One in 21/22 and Accies who fought valiantly to promotion in 22/23 after both clubs relegations to regional leagues in the late 90’s. Now we have a similar issue but bringing in the vast “travel expenses” could really cripple the sport if it isn’t sorted out soon.

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    • Agree with most of what your saying Mike but “This whole fiasco could be the downfall of club rugby in Scotland as a whole” is a bit extreme lol

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      • Ok I understand what you mean but, what I’m getting at is that the SRU are just blatantly manipulating the entire system to protect themselves. As I said before, this all depends on what players are staying at their ‘clubs’. If it had been a team that was in West Three would we really be entertaining the possibility of promotion to Prem/Nat One? There has to be a safety point of view for players and a level of competition otherwise it could and would, be lambs to the slaughter. At what point will all these changes be final? What’s to stop them manipulating the leagues in another 5 years time? How are the SRU going to tackle the issues with clubs paying players and when will it be dealt with. I can assure you that it will be too little too late I’m afraid.

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      • I tried to reply to you Andy but my previous reply must’ve come under “abusive language”. Not towards you but towards the governing body.

        The main point I was trying to make was, what’s going to stop the SRU from changing things again in another 5 years? What’s going to stop them from changing competition rules to suit the former ‘S6’ teams? The CRB compiling a report on how we can stop player payments yet nothing has been done about clubs outwith premiership like Melrose, Watsonians and the SRU’s poster child, Billy McHarg RFC. Ayr specifically who have blatantly paid their way to win. LPG spoke of the topic well in the article on Ayr winning Nat One. So much so that comments were disabled…
        This has to be stopped and sanctions given to clubs that will stop them continuing and stop other clubs from starting.

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    • Mike, back in the Amateur days there were always teams like the French and New Zealand who were rumoured to be paying players , either through expenses, family holidays, free kit and boots. It got right up the noses of those honourable players who were purely amateur.
      But guess what? Those teams who ‘helped’ players always seemed to have better teams and individuals. It’s not rocket science. A man will almost always perform better if being rewarded for his time and effort.
      If, as you suggest Ayr RFC are enhancing someone’s contract and it makes that player play better , eventually to a standard where Glasgow or Edinburgh come calling then surely that’s what we all want. It probably takes a lot of approaching and sweet talking local businesses on behalf of the club, work clearly that others aren’t prepared to do.
      To do otherwise is a race to the bottom.

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      • The issue is, it’s not fair to those in an amateur league. And with that logic we would have a pool of 50+ players waiting for a pro contract but the quality was never good enough to match that professional level with the minor exceptions; Tom Jordan and Ben Afshar come to mind.

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      • Amateur sport has always found ways to pay players. Personally l don’t see anything thing wrong with it since it’s impossible to police. Admittedly the richer clubs may gain an advantage. The SRU’s the main focus should be on developing or own talent so perhaps a cap on the amounts of foreign players a club can include in a match day squad. My main worry is that they start shoehorning academy players into premiership teams insisting that they get game time. Given the performances of the U18/20 this would be really unfair. With the promotion and relegation aspect to the premiership and Nat1 to next season there should be some fantastic rugby and the best young players given a chance should thrive. Lets start with a new broom in terms of pathways maybe the real cream will get a chance to rise to the top.

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      • If clubs are enhancing co traces then Needs to be a level field . I.e all clubs should be able to do the same

    • You make some good points Mike but the problem is that “Super” 6 was an appalling thought out failed concept from the very beginning. Now that Dodson has been shown the door and his folly consigned to the dustbin Scottish club rugby has to be re-organised and there simply is no solution that will please everyone.

      Blame Dodson and be grateful that he was found out before club rugby was totally destroyed. Maybe in four or five years it will have recovered.

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  18. Why? The super six teams will likely lose a lot of players to prem or down south. Also some of those teams lost a lot players when SS started from their club teams which has been to their detriment. Also other teams were promoted when those six teams were removed. Short memories

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    • Spot on James Aitkin. It is a complete shambles and typical of SRU management/non management.

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    • Totally agree why should the likes of Melrose be put back in the premiership when they chose to join the super six.It will probably go back to the days of Melrose/Ayr dominating.

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  19. I find this absolutely shocking for the new league reconstruction.
    It is not fair on other clubs who are trying to get promoted.
    The super six clubs should start from the bottom and work themselves upwards.

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    • What would the point in starting super 6 teams at the bottom?
      Semi pro , fast men with years of gym work and conditioning under their belt against guys who train together one night a week? A recipe for disaster , a waste of talent and the super 6 guys would walk away.
      Surely if it’s an improved level of rugby in Scotland that we want these S6 players have to be diluted throughout the Premiership.

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      • Many of the S6 guys are already away at other clubs outwith if S6 fixtures…..really hope the kids that are toiling in 3rd n 4th tiers aren’t overwhelmed by stepping up beyond their physical ability. Pretending that S6 semi pros will hang about is risible. Also deeply on unfair on the clubs throughout the leagues that have EARNED promotion and did nothing wrong. It’s going to take a long time for Scottish rugby to arrest the freefall let alone recover from Dodson.

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