Like an overheard conversation, we all have some nagging doubts in our mind about how Edinburgh and Glasgow are going to progress next season.
Budgetary restraints mean that both pro teams may be cutting down their squads further for next year and a surprisingly large number of players are nearing the end of their contracts. Some pros in Scotland will be moving on in the summer. That is the reality.
As Try-machine Visser signs-on again at Edinburgh and other players, deserving or not, may be moving on it is maybe time to look at what the pro teams are to do to support the stars neither team is willing to lose.
Firstly there are rumours circling Murrayfield that there may be a series of trades between both teams so as to keep players on their existing contracts whilst getting these players game time (out of respect I won’t use any names). For example if Edinburgh need strengthening in a certain area and Glasgow have a surplus in that area they swap players. They do a deal. Simples.
Secondly it is alleged that with a large number of players exiting the pro set-ups for monetary reasons, they will have to be replaced with cheaper options. This could mean a lot more academy players stepping up as well as increased game time for club players. With the great results for Melrose and Ayr in the B & I Cup this could be increasingly likely.
If this is the case then, as well as picking up the cheaper players released by other pro-teams in Britain, maybe France and possibly fringe guys from the Southern Hemisphere, we could see some major names leaving the two Scottish sides. Big names.
Who do we replace these big names with? If a swap can’t fill the gap and the coffers are full of ‘I O U’s’ (it was previously filled with the ‘Murrayfield Carpet Fund’) then don’t be surprised if the cheapest option is to sign Club players.
This makes this year’s Scottish Club International and B & I Cup a little bit more significant. There could be more of a ‘shop window’ this season.
It is a shame that James Fleming will not be playing for the SCI this season because he is away on 7s duty, as he is the stand out winger in Club rugby, right now. Glasgow should surely test him in the ML soon as everything he touches turns to tries (like Mr. Visser). There are, however, some guys in the SCI squad who could easily play at professional level. The victories against pro outfits from Ayr and Melrose can tell you that.
On the 4th of Feb. SCI play their French counterparts in Orleans, an hour outside Paris, looking for their first away victory (The starting team is announced on Thursday). Given a decent result and a good performance some lads could play their way into the reckoning with Glasgow and Edinburgh. A number of the squad already train with the teams.
The issue, though, remains that funding may eventually see both pro teams slightly weakened. Investment is needed, but where will this come from? Is this really a good move after disappointing seasons, particularly in the HC? Scottish teams may look to benefit from the English salary cap, hovering up the excess players released. They will be whining about said cap, and the French have mega squads, but methinks our teams are a little bit further behind in terms of investment and squad size, En-ger-land…
Either way, club rugby- amateur rugby- appears to be in rude health. Improvements in the club game are encouraging. Hopefully the pro teams can learn a few things from the club game… (maybe not… Investment is scarce in both arenas…)
Let’s see how this one develops over the next few months.