WHAT a fantastic result last week when the South of Scotland beat The Barbarians at Mansfield Park 22-15.
While all the South boys went back to work the next day bruised and battered, but full of pride, the overwhelming reaction from all who pulled on the red-and-white hooped jerseys was that they wanted more fixtures like this.
Some of the boys were experiencing representative rugby for the first time and they loved it – who wouldn’t? What club player would not want to play at a higher level in an attempt to better themselves and further their career?
The problem is, though, that while the South clubs have done something about providing a stepping stone up the ladder to pro rugby for local club players, the Edinburgh, Glasgow and Caledonia clubs appear to be dragging their heels, and the time has come for them to make something happen and try their best to resurrect the district championship in Scotland.
All the boys who experienced the game against professional players, including internationalists from Georgia, USA, Wales, Ireland and Romania, as well as three of Edinburgh’s backline, will remember that day for a long time to come, but we need to keep that momentum going.
I know the British & Irish Cup has been used by the governing body in Scotland as a prize for the top three clubs in Premier One, which of course helps these teams, but, without raining on the parade of Melrose, Currie and Ayr (who are currently involved in this competition), wouldn’t it give more players access to this level of competition if the three (or four) teams from Scotland were district sides instead of clubs? I would be very surprised if Scottish club players would turn down opportunities to play in that, or indeed an inter-district competition.
Next year, with the leagues being cut to 10 teams, there are effectively four weekends free and I see no reason why those four free weeks could not be used for a round-robin inter-district tournament like the old days.
I know there is talk of another game against Northumberland, and that has to be welcomed, but the return of the regular games against Edinburgh, Glasgow and Caledonia is essential if Scottish rugby is to continue to produce stars of the future.
But back to the performance a few days ago. The South have now beaten Australia, Japan, Fiji and the Barbarians, as well as drawing twice with South Africa and Argentina.
Great to know that the current crop of Borders players have carried on the tradition – all previous wearers of the jersey and the South tie will have been very proud of the class of 2011.