The Guinness PRO12 fixtures are out, and it’s fair to say there are a few changes to the structure of the season based on what we are used to. Whether the (very) recent survey that was doing the rounds had anything to do with it or not is debatable, but it may have been some way of the PRO12 seeking retroactive permission from fans for the changes even as they were rubber-stamping them.
For the forthcoming 2016/17 season, the PRO12 have designated six ‘Big Weekends’ (nothing to do with Radio 1) across the season that will include what they describe as the league’s “signature” match-ups, such as the 1872 Cup Scottish derby, Leinster versus Munster at the Aviva Stadium, the Italian derby and the double header Judgement Day spectacular between the Welsh Regions at the Millenium.
With the first occurring in Week 6, one of those slots also happens on the last weekend of the regular season, and although there are two back to back “big weekends” over the festive period, the previously back to back 1872 Cup matches between Edinburgh and Glasgow have instead been separated by several months rather than occupying both of those slots as previously. Possibly in the process allowing one side to stomp all over the other’s playoff chances.
Many will mourn this split, but for those outside of the native catchment areas (ie the Borders and the North), a chance to see an 1872 Cup match when weather is better and public transport is fully running will be welcome, even if this year it is at the regularly sold out Scotstoun.
In an effort to standardise kickoff times, the majority of Friday night matches will be started at the regular time of 1935 and there are now very few Sunday games (only one involving Edinburgh so far in the first round of definite dates). Most of the remainder are sprinkled across Saturdays, which might at least make teatimes interesting if you’re not a fan of talent shows.