THE SRU have distanced themselves from comments made to the press earlier this week by Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac which indicated that development teams from north of the border are set to join the Celtic Cup from the start of next season.
The new competition kicks off next month with ‘A teams’ from the four Irish provinces and the four Welsh regions playing against one another on six consecutive weekends, before the highest ranked team from each country meet in a final on the weekend of 19th to 21st October.
Speaking at Tuesday’s launch of the Guinness PRO14, Pivac, who is due to take over from Warren Gatland as Wales’ head coach after the 2019 World Cup, stated –
“I see it [the Celtic Cup] as a positive and, moving forward, when the Scottish jump in next year, it will hopefully just grow.”
This set alarm bells ringing north of the Border where there is already a huge amount of uncertainty as to how the game is going to be structured and operated below PRO14 level when the SRU’s Super 6 ‘part-time professional’ league is launched at the start of the 2019-20 season.
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The leading clubs below Super 6 are particularly anxious about where the ‘Club XVs’ of these elite teams are going to be accommodated in the domestic structure, the impact of a reduction in central funding for leading clubs which did not make the Super 6 cut, and the general strain which is going to be put on player numbers by suddenly creating a completely new rugby tier out of nowhere.
If Scotland was to get involved in this new back-up league then it would further stretch limited playing resources, with an inevitable knock-on effect on the quality and profile of Super 6 and the domestic leagues below that.
While not categorically ruling out the possibility of some Scottish involvement in the Celtic Cup from 2019 onwards, on the basis that an organisation such as the SRU should always keep open as many options as possible, a spokesman from Murrayfield did indicate that Pivac has perhaps put the cart before the horse –
“Scottish Rugby is invested in raising the standard of the club game in Scotland through the development of the new Super 6 competition, while ensuring our professional teams Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors remain competitive in the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup.”
A key issue for Super 6 clubs is the attractiveness of the cross-border competition they have been promised as part of their franchise deal. SRU chief executive Mark Dodson told the governing body’s AGM at the start of this month that this will involve playing against the top six teams in the Welsh Principality Premiership at the end of the 2019-20 season.
However, there is some unrest in Wales at the moment related to the decision to downgrade the Premiership’s role in the development pathway, prompting former Wales head coach Nigel Davies (who now works as chief executive of the Welsh Premiership and their champion club Merthyr) to state earlier this week that –
“The WRU are also asking the Premiership clubs to play in a cross-border competition with the new Scottish Super 6 clubs. Why is this when their current philosophy and funding means we won’t have semi-professional clubs within two seasons? As a group of Premiership clubs, we are more confused than ever over what our role is.”
Greater clarity on how Super 6 is going to look is expected in the next few weeks, with the clubs involved apparently hopeful that participation agreements will be signed by the end of the month.
The statement from the SRU doesn’t really say anything. Yes it’s right to keep an eye on developments but the Celtic Cup is a completely different beast to Super 6 and those clubs would lose heavily if they play against FT pros. If it is “A” Edinburgh and Glasgow sides we don’t have enough players for all that or the spare pros being chucked S6 direction will be drawn off for that comp
The noises from Wales indicate that a competition with the Welsh premiership and S6 hasn’t been agreed. So who did the SRU speak to and what did they agree?