The people have spoken: May 21st to June 2nd 2019

The Offside Line's readers have their say on the rugby stories which have really mattered to them during the last fortnight

Scotland Under-20s had their final hit-out ahead of the World Championships against Old Glory DC last week. Image: Evan Lappen

HERE is the latest instalment of our series chronicling the most interesting and thought-provoking feedback we have had on the stories covered by The Offside Line during the last two weeks.

We welcome submissions via Facebook, Twitter and comments at the foot of articles on the site. You can also email us at contact@theoffsideline.com, but please make it clear that you consent to have your words published and attributed.

We welcome views on all aspects of the game – things you like and things you don’t like – as long as it is respectful and constructive. Valid criticism is fine, personal attacks will be deleted.


27th May: Glasgow Warriors: Dave Rennie optimistic about life after Stuart Hogg

After watching his side lift the Guinness Pro14 Grand Final, Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie turned his gaze forward towards next season.

Ian McKay:

Glasgow not at Leinster’s level?

That’s absolute rubbish.

Glasgow should have won that final.

Doug Bain: 

Lets hope Logan Trotter gets a crack at showing his unique skills. He may not be a Stuart Hogg (yet) but he does have a special ability to see gaps and break tackles in the way that Hoggy did from the start 9 years ago.

Murdo Fraser (via Facebook):

I’m not so sure as Glasgow are still not the team they were with Finn Russell in their ranks. Hoggy will be a huge loss.


28th May: Scotland Under-20s lower Old Glory with ten-try demolition

Scotland’s top age-grade side had a run out with Scottish Rugby’s American-based partner club, Old Glory DC, in. Washington ahead of flying south to Argentina for the Junior World Championships, which kicks off this coming Tuesday. The young Scots secured a comfortable win, with SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson and Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay watching on, prompting a few of our readers to question the value of the link with the American side.

Walter:

I wonder who gave the go ahead to put money in this overseas team ..? Don’t see the point in this. Be better helping lower leagues in Scotland. PS – Note some high up people have a grand life with freebies.

Gerry Sykes (in reply to Walter):

This is very short sighted of you, these are the players of the future.

Walter (in reply to Gerry):

Never mentioned anything against having an u20 team, Gary .

It’s about wasting money abroad when it can be better invested in clubs on home soil.

Dom Ward:

I feel very ambivalent about this tie up. With money that should be invested in scotland going outside our game.

Why would the U20s need the CEO and COO at their match? And how much did their trip cost? I can imagine they were travelling economy.

What benefit did the U20s gain from this run out? Seems not very much.

The quote for Dodson is mind popping. If he thinks being part of a franchise in a sport the US really don’t get or are interested in “promoting the Scottish thistle” I think he is in for a bit of a let down.

If only there was a sport in the US which have traveled this path before…..That weird soccer ball thingy.

Paul Justice (via Facebook):

Can someone remind me how much of the Members scarce resources is being invested in this overseas franchise/club/team?


29th May: Scotland 7s stalwart Scott Riddell announces retirement

The former Scotland 7s captain played his last tournament in Paris last weekend.

Stuart (via Twitter):

Fantastic 7s player. Our finest ever – should have been in the Olympics too.


30th May: National Reserve Leagues on brink of being scrapped

An SRU proposal to scrap the two National Reserve Leagues and replace them with East and West leagues inevitably prompted a flurry of responses, with the underlying story being the strain the club game is under due to plummeting player numbers.

Brian McMillan:

In this day and age with an app for everything there ought to be effective ways of finding a suitable game for reserve teams who’s availability waxes and wanes throughout the season. When I started playing for Crawley 4th & 5th XVs we formed up on a Saturday morning at the clubhouse used the phone at the end of the bar to find a game. In two seasons the 4ths always got a game, and the 5ths only failed if they did not have a team in the first place.

Too old (in reply to Brian McMillan):

To be fair many club sides have taken this approach and started to arrange friendlies as backups in the week before games against common call-off sides….

The issue comes that some reserve sides engage in a game of call-off poker waiting until last minute to see if the opposition call-off first..

Not uncommon for mid-table sides to have got 50%+ of points via call-offs.

Dom Ward (also in reply to Brian McMillan):

Ah the halcyon days!

I started in our 5ths and these matches were all arranged by the fixture secretary.

We are in a different era so things do need to adapt. Why all the league rugby? It leaves no room for friendly games. How about arranging a games/games at one club in one weekend. Just turn up and play. Another club offers their facilities and so on.

The other thing we need is for the SRU to publish the player number figures. If they had been half decent I would have expected great press releases so things not looking that good I suspect.

Paul Justice:

Super 6 to have limited impact on the club game then – repeat the mantra after me, “fewer, but stronger; fewer, but stronger; fewer, but stronger”

Dom Ward:

This just gets better and better.

Isn’t this broadly the same format we had in 1st XV rugby a few seasons ago? Without the swapping teams about to even things up in the new season.

Honestly it’s like we need to reinvent the wheel every time.

This all stems from the inability of Murrayfield to map the impact of their decision making. It’s not even that pleasurable to say I told you so.

Mike H:

Where have Heriot’s 2nds vanished to?

You can’t have the back-up team for a National 1 side (Heriot’s/FerryRoad) playing as low a level as East 3 against a bunch of social players!

Keith Wallace:

Yet another “bleeding obvious” consequence of a Super 6 process which had no impact assessment done whatsever. This consequence was raised months ago at the N2/N3 Forum.

Again, nothing against S6 but loads of concerns on consequences.

The Clubs are being badly served by a Council who have simply allowed this to happen, and a Board which allows havoc to be wreaked on the Club game.

Every bit as bad a process failure as Russellgate for me.

Will we see another AGM of contrition from the (invisible between AGM’s) Chairman?

Or will we see more of the appalling behaviours from the top table at the SGM?

Either way, a club game teetering on the brink can ill afford to be the victim of friendly fire.

R Cummings:

Respondents are depicting this as an ‘unintended consequence’ of the Super 6 development. I think that is an erroneous conclusion that is not borne out by the arithmetic.

There were by my reckoning 80 reserve teams this season, which reduced to 77 due to 3 teams being dropped from East 1 for non-fulfillments. Going by the TOL article, there will be just 3 fewer next season.

In short, it would be perfectly possible to retain the present reserve structure of two National Leagues and 6 East/West leagues next season if desired. Sure, 4 of the regional leagues might have to reduce from 11 or 12 teams to 10, but that is the standard, optimum size for a league anyway and therefore rational.

The impact of Super 6 looks to be the loss of 2 reserve teams – Heriots 2 and Melrose Storm, no doubt due to 2nd XV players being promoted to the S6 squad. But that is hardly a critical blow to reserve league rugby.

The proposed change looks more to do with someone or some clubs favouring more regionalisation, perhaps on travel cost/time grounds, than much to do with Super 6.

Dom Ward (in response to R Cummings):

I don’t follow your logic here.

Whether it’s a consequence of S6 or not. The facts are that the national reserve leagues are changing. It supports the narrative that we have a player deficit. Not enough players to fill the player numbers required.

I would also add that reserve league rugby doesn’t exist in Caley (with the exception of DHSFP and County I think). 2nds play in the regional leagues outside of Caley 1.

This season coming will be interesting. Take the aforementioned Stirling County. Their Nat 1 side will be a combo of last seasons 1sts not in the S6 side and some of last seasons 2s. Theirs 2s playing in Nat Res 1 will be a combo of last seasons 2s and 3rds. Theirs 3rds will be god knows what team.

I also hear that a club is moving from the Caley leagues to a reserve league in another region. How that’s possible I really don’t know.

I was present at a season structure meeting last week. The SRU development guys are very open about the player number issues and while not promoting any particular solution required clubs to think creatively about how we deal with that. They expressed particular concern with 2nd XV rugby

Creating 6 new sides that require 190-210 players will by definition be impactful on the club game. That the SRU and the S6 planners chose to ignore club warnings on this says more about their hubris than anything else.

R Cummings (in response to Dom Ward):

Just to confirm my figures, there were 80 reserve teams this season, which looks to be reducing to 74 next season.

Of the 7 teams dropping out:

* 3 are from Super 6 clubs – Heriots 2, Melrose Storm and Watsonian 4, this no doubt due to reserve players being promoted to the S6 squads

* 3 are from the East Development league, Edinburgh Northern 3, Musselburgh 3 and Royal High/Queensferry, the first two no doubt due to lack of numbers to get a 3rd XV out.

* Murrayfield Wanderers 2, who dropped out of East Div 1 this season and don’t seem to be in the lists for next season.

The loss is reduced by RDVC rejoining the leagues next season.

So don’t see that the driver for the proposed sea-change in reserve structure is anything to do with S6 really, there are enough teams to retain the current structure of 8 leagues, or indeed the proposed regional structure of 8 leagues. The driver for the proposed change lies elsewhere.

I once, not so long ago, studied the reserve leagues and wrote a paper on them for the high heid yins, which concluded that (a) the reserve League, which at that time numbered close to 100 teams, should be reduced to the 60 top teams, as that was the maximum number that seemed able to fulfill their fixtures reasonably consistently without myriad call-offs, (b) they should be organised in two National Leagues, 2 East leagues and 2 West leagues, all of 10 teams, (c) prize money for league winners and a Reserve Cup competition should be introduced as incentives to drive a high-quality reserve set-up and (d) the remaining reserve teams should be switched to the regional leagues, playing initially in Regional Div 3, with less onerous rules on team numbers and points deductions to encourage under-strength teams to participate in friendlies, as is now being sort of done in the East Development League.

Dom Ward (in response to R Cummings):

I’m not quibbling with your figures I said I couldn’t follow your logic.

I would also contend that your proposition that reserve team rugby isn’t impacted by S6 is naive at best.

We have tossed all the pieces of Scottish male senior rugby up in the air hoping they all fall gently to the ground and dont break. The reserve league is the first example of how that was wishful thinking.

R Cummings (in response to Dom Ward):

Dom Ward wrote:

‘Creating 6 new sides that require 190-210 players will by definition be impactful on the club game. That the SRU and the S6 planners chose to ignore club warnings on this says more about their hubris than anything else.’

The general assumption in all this is that the S6 clubs will be raiding everyone else to get these kind of numbers. The reality I think will be that maybe something like 50 players in total get lured from their clubs into S6 teams.

Example: If we say it takes 25 players on the books to field a team – you gave some figures for your own club which were along these lines – then a club like Watsonians with 4 teams might have 100 players on the books at present. If they need 35 for the S6 squad, 25 for the 2nds and 25 for the 3rds and scrap their 4ths, then they will have 15 players surplus.

A club with 3 teams, like Stirling County or Boroughmuir, will be short of 15 players each. A club with 2.5 teams (Heriot’s) or 2 teams (Melrose) would be well short of players, so both have dropped a reserve team and would have a surplus of 15 and 5 respectively.

Don’t know about Ayr, with their de facto 3rd XV disappearing from the lists this season.

So the S6 teams will likely be shedding something like 15 players between them.
I have said from the outset that the numbers would be found largely by dropping a reserve team at each S6 club and that is what has happened – Boroughmuir and Ayr last season I think, Heriots, Watsonians and Melrose next season, only Stirling Co look like trying to maintain their 3 teams – they have a big youth section to draw on, but time will tell.

In addition, the S6 teams are going to have the 30 Stage 3 Academy boys to draw on and a number of players coming north to swell the horde.

Of course senior clubs are upset at losing maybe 2 or 3 of their better players to S6 and these clubs will no doubt raid lower district clubs to make up their numbers.

So the net impact on the scene is (a) maybe up to 50 players migrate to S6 clubs, probably less and (b) 3 reserve teams drop out next season. I don’t personally see that as an ‘inability to map the impact’, rather that the impact is not that great really and is being rather over-stated by some. It was also perfectly obvious from day one, if the objective is to improve the standard of rugby at the top end of the club game, then some of the better club players will need and wish to step up to S6 and the S6 clubs will likely lose a reserve XV each.


1st June: Club rugby celebrated at annual awards – why all the secrecy?

The annual club awards was last Friday night. The Offside Line was left disgruntled and frustrated on behalf of the clubs that the SRU didn’t seem to want the event reported outside of their own media channels.

May Sinclair:

What is happening at Murrayfield when so many employed who are not fit for the post they are in? Who is I/c of interviewing and making so many bad decisions? Investigation required as this cannot continue as it does nothing to promote Scottish rugby.

Mikey G:

Beggars belief, what a shame. Lack of publicity is by and large the root cause of failure in this social media driven world. Live pictures and quotes on the SRU website should have been a given. Shame on the SRU, and they want volunteers to keep rugby afloat at club level? Hang in there, ladies and lads, clubland supporters appreciate you.


2nd June: U20 World Champs: Ross Thompson ready to hit the ground running

The squad vice-captain was in a confident frame of mind as he looked forward to the tournament opener against South Africa tomorrow [Tuesday] afternoon.

Greg Cameron (via Facebook):

Glanced into a recent gym session led by Sean Lamont at Ravenscraig before reffing the 16s trial. Some seriously impressive stuff. No doubt these boys will do damage.


A capital idea: Edinburgh City 7s offers something for everybody

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1300 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

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