Clubs get down to business end of league season

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AS WE approach the end of the club season, thoughts turn to promotion and relegation issues for clubs, players and supporters, particularly as this year will see play-off games taking place for some teams in some leagues. So let’s explain what will happen, writes Stuart Cameron.

The top four teams in the Premiership will again qualify for the British & Irish Cup next season. The team which finishes bottom will automatically drop to the National League. The winner of the National League will automatically win promotion to the Premiership. The ninth-placed team in the Premiership will play the second-placed National League side on Saturday, April 6, with the winner of that tie playing in the Premiership next season.

The bottom two in the National League will automatically be relegated to the Championship, to be replaced by the winners of Championship A and Championship B. The bottom clubs from A & B will be relegated to either the East, Caledonia or West leagues.

The winners of Division One from those three regions go up to the Championship. The ninth-placed clubs from A & B will play off with the loser dropping down to the East, Caledonia or West league next season.

For Gala and Melrose, those four B & I Cup places are still a real possibility with the former, who travel to play Stirling County this weekend, still in with a chance of the league title. Melrose play Dundee at the Greenyards.

In the National League, Hawick are out in front and have a top-of-the-table showdown against second-placed Glasgow Hawks at Mansfield Park to look forward to on Saturday.

At the bottom of the table, Jed-Forest are still clinging onto a chance of escaping the drop and travel to play Stewart’s Melville, while Kelso are also on the road with a tie against Watsonians. Selkirk play Biggar at Hartreemill.

After the ‘Italian Job’, Scotland welcome Ireland to Murrayfield on Sunday with plenty of confidence.

Ireland have lost at least four key players through injury and suspension, but they have a strong squad with world-class players, so any thoughts of a weakened Irish side are well wide of the mark.

At Cardiff, Ireland looked like world champions, racing away to a big lead early on, but Wales came back at them and almost pulled off an upset. The game against England was not pretty, but the Irish showed they can defend well against a team who are capable of running riot. The weather played a big part in that match – by all accounts we’re in for a dry but cold day on Sunday, so expect a very different game.

What all Scots fans want is another passionate performance and for us to take our chances when we get them. We did that against Italy with four tries, and it was just as well, because we lost the territory and possession stats. We will surely get less opportunities from Ireland, so we must be more creative, particularly at the breakdown.

We were all delighted with what happened against Italy, but that will mean nothing if we can’t back it up. We have a real chance to not only beat the Irish, but to be competitive in this 6 Nations. Let’s hope that the squad give us something to cheer about on Sunday. Visit 
www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk for the team line-up.

On Friday night, Scotland Under-20s continue their Six Nations campaign against Ireland at Netherdale. Gala’s Chris Auld starts at centre while Shawn Muir (Hawick) is on the bench.