As I sit here, rain lashing off the Under Armour shop windows and bags of rubbish rolling down the street like tumble weed, gales are hitting the UK in earnest for the first time this Winter – in fact a so-called weather bomb has hit our shores. It is a complete u-turn from Monday's weather which was stiller and whole lot colder with a little flavour of sleet and snow on my journey back to the Borders.
You’ll have to excuse me but I am going to write this blog from my perspective in Scotland, it’s what I know, it’s where I grew up and it’s where I’ve played rugby from the age of 5 to the present day. I can’t speak for England, Wales and Ireland as I’m no Met office expert. I only know their capital cities from 6 Nations sorties in the Springtime, and noticeably these cities seem balmy in Spring compared to our own fair city of Edinburgh where First XV is based, or perhaps it is the 8 pint armour which makes it seem so warm and colourful - the daffies of course being on show way earlier than up here– and I’m not talking about the perma tanned type from the Valleys of Wales.
So to the point, Summer Rugby for Scotland. It’s a yes please from a veteran loose head prop anyway. I can’t see the logic on pulling on mid-thigh length shorts and a short sleeve top in January – our Baselayers
are good but they can only fight off so much. I can’t see the logic in attempting to play an entertaining, wide, skillful game of rugby in atrocious conditions. I don’t see the logic in sitting by your phone on a Saturday morning waiting for the final verdict on the pitch; water logged, frozen, snowy etc. More to the point I don’t see the point in watching rugby in these conditions – the paying public that funds our sport.
The argument against that always gets batted about up here north of the border is that many clubs in these parts are FP’s, ie former pupils teams, a spur from a school. Therefore the pitch is often owned by the school and not at all under the club's sole control, converted to cricket or athletics come the back end of Spring once the weather and pitches really start to improve. Yes this is a valid point but surely rugby has to look after rugby. Do what’s best for the good of the game is this country, where there is a will there is a way.
To great relief, Scotland turned in some hefty performances during the Autumn tests, earning a lot respect back from all corners of the globe. The new hybrid surface at Murrayfield surely also played its part in providing a platform for entertaining rugby. However we have struggled for too long on the precipice of slipping to the second tier of international rugby . In my opinion, the positives of Summer rugby across the amateur game can only have a trickle up effect on the fortunes of the Scotland team.
Better weather equals harder pitches, both suited to increasing skill levels across the board. Better weather equals more players and supporters. I’d love to know if it is just my club that sees a dramatic drop off in training numbers at this time of year? Incidentally my club has a brand new natural surface to train on, which is holding up rather nicely – numbers still drop off though. And surely increased playing numbers will mean more potential superstars filtering through to the top. And to my last point; it sets us apart from football – Scotland's number one sport. Perhaps we can hoover up some of their best athlete’s at a young age and teach them some rugby discipline!
Don't get me wrong, the professional game would probably have to remain as it is. We've got to be realistic, we're not talking about changing the the game in the entire Northern Hemisphere. The 6 Nations is sacrosanct and the professional leagues I'm sure are quite happy as they are - but they play on the best of the best surfaces, undersoil heating, blankets and 3G pitches et al.
But for the humble amateurs of Scotland, let's think BBQ’s, let's think beer tents, let's think Colts, 2nds and 1st
XV playing on the same pitch on the same day, let's think about mini rugby in the half time breaks, let's think about getting the families down enmasse. How about the 7's played in the blazing skies of August? And why not have a shorter season while we are at it - it works for New Zealand.
Let's take a serious look at summer rugby and set Scotland Rugby
on a more positive path to the future.