New worries about regionalised rugby’s October start date

Borders rugby clubs may be back in competitive action at the end of next month, following the publication by Scottish Rugby of fixtures for each tier of the Scottish game.

By Ralph Mellon
Friday, 25th September 2020, 5:15 pm
Borders clubs are hoping to embark on regionalised action at the end of October but COVID-19 rules are making it uncertain (library image by Ian Rutherford
Borders clubs are hoping to embark on regionalised action at the end of October but COVID-19 rules are making it uncertain (library image by Ian Rutherford

However, renewed concerns over COVID-19 regulations have thrown fresh doubt over whether or not fixtures will start at that time.

The sport had been making steady progress to resume, in line with public health guidelines.

After widespread Scottish Rugby Council consultation, a regional model for competitions in the 2020-21 season was approved by the Scottish Rugby Board, to ensure some competitive rugby could be played in 2020-21.

Covid concerns forced Scottish Rugby to scrap the normal national competitions and replace them with a more regionalised format.

But, while these were scheduled to kick off on October 31, this week’s tightening of Government restrictions may mean that’s unikely to happen.

Rugby was hoping to move to the next phase of its Route Map on October 5, allowing the full contact tackle training necessary to make sure players are ready to return safely.

But, if that doesn’t happen, an October 31 start may seem unrealistic because of the risk of injuries to players whose bodies are not yet fully

reconditioned.

In the meantime, the regional approach aims to help soften the challenges of local lockdowns for COVID-19 outbreaks and also reduces both the need and distances travelled to matches for teams.

It’s already been stated that an indicative start date of October 31 was being worked towards as part of Stage 6 of the

Return to Rugby Roadmap for the first round of the new regional competitions.

Space in the playing calendar had been added to allow for any delays to Return to Rugby stages 5 and 6 being implemented in light of

any potential public health guidelines from the Scottish Government.

And it has also been stressed that Scottish Rugby will only progress to stages 5 and 6 if it is safe to do so and has been approved by the Scottish Government.

Meantime, Scottish Rugby is delighted long-term sponsor Tennent’s is continuing its support, which will once again see it putting

its name and the Tennent’s Light brand against all the adult competitions across the male and female game.

Mitsubishi Motors will also resume its support to the Schools & Youth Conferences.

Talks are on-going around the naming of the respective conferences, in conjunction with the brand and its partners.

Advice to all grassroots clubs is being shared by Scottish Rugby to enable them to begin planning for friendly fixtures in preparation for the

planned resumption of non-competitive matches on October 19, with webinars also being planned to share advice on how to deliver safe matchdays.

The regionalised schedule of competitions and matches is intended to be in place solely for the 2020-21 season and a set of national competition

rules will be issued to outline the way the games will be overseen by Scottish Rugby, with a lighter touch and emphasis on flexibility around match fulfilment intended.

The principal tournament featuring Borders rugby clubs in 2020-21 was due to be the Tennent’s Light National Competition 1.

A total of 22 teams will play in a two-stage contest, possibly starting on October 31.

In the first phase, teams will be divided into four conferences and play each other within the same conference twice on a home and away

basis.

The winners of each conference in stage one will progress to the play-offs.

Borders clubs will be in Conference ‘D’, featuring 1st XVs from Gala, Hawick, JedForest, Kelso, Melrose and Selkirk.

For stage two, teams will be divided into two separate competitions and, within each competition, be divided into two pools, which

means the Border clubs will be mixing with teams from other regions.

Teams will play each other within the same group once on a home or away basis.

The winners of each pool in each competition will progress to the play-offs (where the same team qualifies for the play-offs in stage

one and, in stage two, the highest-ranking team in the same pool will also progress to the play-offs).

The local clubs’ scheduled fixtures for the opening four weeks are:

Saturday, October 31 – Kelso v Jed-Forest, Melrose v Gala, Selkirk v Hawick.

Saturday, November 7 – Hawick v Kelso, Gala v Selkirk, Jed-Forest v Melrose.

Saturday, November 14 – Gala v Jed-Forest, Melrose v Hawick, Selkirk v Kelso.

Saturday, November 21 – Hawick v Gala, Kelso v Melrose, Jed-Forest v Selkirk.

Saturday, November 28 – Standby date.

Borders clubs also figure in an East Girls Development Programme, in November and December,

featuring U12, U14, U16 and U18 squads.

Local sides include Gala Vixens, Hawick, Kelso, Melrose and Selkirk and scheduled games are:

Sunday, November 8 – Selkirk v Melrose, Kelso v Hawick, Stewart’s Melville v Currie Chieftains.

Sunday, November 15 – Gala Vixens v Kelso, Hawick v Selkirk.

Sunday, November 22 – Selkirk v Gala Vixens, Melrose v Hawick.

Sunday, November 29 – Gala Vixens v Melrose, Kelso v Selkirk.

Sunday, December 6 – Hawick v Gala Vixens, Melrose v Kelso.

A Tennent’s Light East Reserve Team Competition 3 features 2nd XVs from Jed-Forest, Hawick, Selkirk, Peebles, Kelso, Gala and Melrose.

Saturday, October 31 – Kelso v Peebles, Melrose v Gala, Selkirk v Hawick.

Saturday, November 7 – Hawick v Kelso, Jed-Forest v Melrose, Peebles v Gala.

Saturday, November 14 – Gala v Jed-Forest, Melrose v Hawick, Selkirk v Peebles.

Saturday, November 21 – Hawick v Gala, Kelso v Melrose, Jed-Forest v Selkirk.

Saturday, November 28 – Standby date.

Additionally, among the Clubs/Youth events, an East Club Programme 1 is set to

include U18, U16, U15, U14 and U13 teams, playing each other once home or away.

The clubs are from Duns/Berwickshire Schools, Peebles/High School, Selkirk Youth/High School, Gala /RT /Academy, Hawick Youth/High School, Jed Thistle/Grammar, Kelso Quins/High School, Melrose Wasps/Earlston HS.

Fixtures in the diary for the opening four weeks are:

Saturday, October 31 – Duns/Berwickshire Schools v Selkirk Youth/High School, Peebles/High School v Kelso Quins/High School,

Hawick Youth/High School v Jed Thistle/Grammar, Melrose Wasps/Earlston HS v Gala /RT /Academy.

Saturday, November 7 – Selkirk Youth/High School v Melrose Wasps/Earlston HS, Gala /RT /Academy v Hawick Youth/High School,

Jed Thistle/Grammar v Peebles/High School, Kelso Quins/High School v Duns/Berwickshire Schools.

Saturday, November 14 – Peebles/High School v Gala /RT /Academy, Hawick Youth/High School v Selkirk Youth/High School, Jed Thistle/Grammar v Kelso Quins/High School, Melrose Wasps/Earlston HS v Duns/Berwickshire Schools.

Saturday, November 21 – Duns/Berwickshire Schools v Hawick Youth/High School, Selkirk Youth/High School v Peebles/High School,

Gala /RT /Academy v Jed Thistle/Grammar, Kelso Quins/High School v Melrose Wasps/Earlston HS.