GLASGOW WARRIORS will play a pre-season friendly against Harlequins on 18th August at a pop-up stadium in North Inch public park in Perth, home of Perthshire RFC. This commendable initiative will take professional rugby to that neck of the woods for the first time since the Scotland national team defeated Japan 100-8 at McDiarmid Park in November 2004. Prior to that, the Caledonia Reds played home games in the town up until, and slightly after, their amalgamation with Glasgow at the tail-end of the last century.
The match is being dubbed ‘The Famous Grouse Pre-Season Challenge’ in recognition of the event’s key sponsor and is being hosted in association with Perth & Kinross Council. It will be a focal point of a weekend of activity in the city with the rugby arena also being used for other events.
“This is huge for us,” said Rory McKay, the former Glasgow Warriors player who is now development officer for Perthshire RFC. “Just having a professional team come up here will showcase the game, we’ve not had anything like that in this region for ages.
“It will be great for all the kids getting to see these players up-close and playing a really high-quality game of rugby. James Fleming, who comes from Perth and now plays for Scotland 7s, is fantastic for the club because he always makes a point of coming back and meeting the kids and things like that, so having more of those opportunities to give kids and older fans like myself the chance to meet these guys is going to be great.
“From a development perspective, I’m hugely excited about getting to advertise the game and we’re going to try to use it to springboard a lot of our events for the year. It couldn’t have come at a better time because we are celebrating our 150th anniversary. It’s going to be fantastic for us to push the sport and give us a hook for players in the wider Perthshire area.”Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 3)
As welcome as the decision is to take professional rugby deep into the old North & Midlands territory, it does also serve as a reminder of how deprived this huge region is when it comes to the geographic reach of Scottish rugby’s limited playing resources, which is certain to be exacerbated by the SRU’s decision to launch their Super 6 initiative at the start of next season without a franchise from north of Stirling.
“Ideally, I would have liked to have seen a team further north, I don’t think anybody would disagree with that, but [it was down to] the strength of the bids or however that panned out,” said McKay, who also expressed disappointment that his old amateur club Glasgow Hawks did not make the cut.
“Super 6 as a concept … I’m really interested to see where it goes. Is it going to expand? Is it going to stay where it is? What’s it going to mean for that transition? I know when I was playing club international stuff, having been a pro player previously, that it’s a big step up that probably needs bridged.
“Personally, I think having that stepping stone between club rugby and the professional game is needed. What that looks like, let’s see how Super Six runs.”
- The Warriors will play their second and final pre-season match away to Northampton Saints six days later on 24th August.