Scottish Rugby has confirmed today that its top four Premiership clubs from season 2013-14 will not take part in the 2014-15 British & Irish Cup.
The decision – arrived at after consultation with representatives of the Premiership Forum – follows changes to the competition’s structure. The changes mean six fixtures being played in the competition before Christmas, which would compromise the integrity of Scottish Rugby’s flagship club competition, the BT Premiership.
Scottish Rugby’s director of rugby operations, Colin Thomson, said: “In light of the changes to the British & Irish Cup competition structure our four qualified teams, Melrose, Gala, Ayr and Heriot’s will not participate in the 2014-15 competition.
“Discussions over the competition structure have been difficult and protracted and we have done everything in our power to try to influence a solution that would meet the needs of all participants.
“Regrettably this has not been achieved and the B& I Cup pool dates have been set for two blocks of three fixtures either side of the Autumn International window.
“Given this, we simply could not support six B&I cup games in the first half of the season as this would have a significant impact on the integrity of our own BT Premiership competition. Scottish Rugby will continue to work with its clubs to find suitable cross border opportunities.”
Reaction from the two Scottish clubs who have enjoyed most success in the B&I Cup underlined the determination to rise above any setback.
Mike Dalgetty, Director of Rugby at Melrose, said: “The British & Irish Cup has been a really important tool in player development so while we’re disappointed that negotiations have not concluded in a manner which would enable our continued involvement, we recognise that first of all we have to maintain the quality and integrity of our own competition, the BT Premiership.
“We also have to work towards a better solution for cross-border competition in the future, as a means to enabling us to continue the all-important development of the player.”
Billy McHarg, President of Ayr, said: “It’s disappointing this decision has been reached. But, as far as Ayr are concerned, we just need to get on with it. The B&I Cup was an important tournament for building the quality of teams and raising playing standards at Ayr particularly reaching the quarter finals against Bristol three years ago and notable wins against Ulster and Jersey this season.
“Our drive to do that goes on in the BT Premiership and we look forward to working with Scottish Rugby to find other cross-border opportunities.”
Fixtures for the 2014/15 BT Premiership will be announced in the coming weeks.