part one - Should the exile teams move to the Pro 12?
So I took to twitter tonight and I asked the most dangerous of questions. I needed a Blog subject. I also stipulated not to bring up the very painful subject of the Pro 12 Fair Play league the Ulster currently find themselves rock solid and bottom off! Its a very sore subject for me, and one of great hilarity for most Welsh rugby fans who are beating me round the head with it calling all Irish rugby dirty! I digress.
My colleague @RugbySaints_ gave me a great subject and one that I have lapped up.
Should London Welsh and London Scottish join the Pro 12? Today it was reported that Treviso were likely to leave/ get expelled and if that happens Zebre could follow. All over Euro 1.5 Million in unpaid funds to the Pro 12 teams. Logistically it makes sense that these two teams should be allowed competitive Rugby closer to home. All the Pro 12 teams travel well but not all the way to Italy. It reportedly costs nearly £40,000 to send a matchday squad to Italy for a match!
My initial reaction was, to be fair, very knee jerk. It seemed that the English Leagues were trying to palm off the two teams, but after several coffees, a bacon butty and a soul searching dog walk I have decided that it would be a good thing. The two teams are exactly what are league needs to keep it fresh. The problem with the Italian teams was that they were the whipping boys. The best of Italian talent heads France and leaves huge holes. we did see the occasional victory from them but not enough to be sustained pressure. With the loss of these two italian clubs the Pro 12 would not be missing the competition. I apologise if that reads disrespectful I promise it's not meant to be. The Pro 12 does not have relegation which means there is no real incentive to play your best team every game. With the new qualification rules for the Champions Cup the ERC has addressed this, and yet there they are. Both sitting 11th and 12th. With London Welsh's shocking and dismal efforts this year its clear that they need help.Take into account then that the amount of Exiles in and around London would rebuild these famous clubs fanbase and give them something over than the 'London' clubs to watch and support. Welsh have now competed in a world class league and know that they must strengthen in the Back Room as well as on the pitch and hopefully Scottish will have looked at the efforts of Welsh and learned the same lessons.
So what then happens to Italian Rugby? To be fair as I am not Italian I am not really concerned. World Rugby will not want Italian rugby to fail and will look at pushing the Italians into another league. Maybe even create a new one encompassing the growing Rugby sides in Georgia, Romania and even Turkey.
In my sign off then, if this money is not paid and they are expelled form the Pro 12 Italy Rugby will be fine. Watch for a few legal arguments and a back room deal as us Rugby folk don't really like bad headlines. London Exiles will make a great addition and its far better for fans to get to and from London! I hope that the WRU and SRFU grab hold off this opportunity and fund these famous London Clubs.
part 2 - Scotland 7's SOS!
So the ridiculous news that Scotland could lose their sevens side has made real news in the Rugby World this week. Quick history lesson. Sevens as a separate sport to the full fifteen a side game was created in Melrose as a fund raiser for Melrose Rugby Club. We all know of William Webb Ellis but we should also know of butcher, Ned Haig! It has risen around the globe and the USA are current Olympic Champions! Yes they are!! Go Eagles!
So how did we end up here? Two things have led to the situation where the Scottish Union are now considering the removal of their Sevens team. The cost. To fly players around the globe year on year and fund Flights, accommodation, pay, subsistence all adds up. its not just seven fat blokes any more, its now 20 odd professional players, Physios, Team management, backs coaches, forward coaches, Social media representative, kit man etc etc. Secondly, and I think more likely is the loss of Glasgow off the sevens circuit. Glasgow 7s has long been a a stage in World Rugbys competition and led to some fantastic chances to see the best and brightest ply their trade. In terms of the bigger nations such as Scotland its used as a taster for professional players to get competitive Rugby before heading in to the full 15 game. I honestly believe that the SRFU are doing an impersonation of the a kid holding their breath until they get what they want.
We will find out at the Twickenham Sevens if Glasgow are to lose their round. I suspect if that happens the SRFU will pull out. It will be a shame for Rugby, shame for the players, staff, but more importantly it will a huge shame for the future of Scottish Rugby that desperately needs the youth to get more involved not less. A huge rethink is needed from World Rugby and the SRFU!