Competitive rugby returns | Season 2021/22 Opening Weekend Preview
Competitive rugby is BACK!
It has been 536 days since the last competitive game of domestic rugby has been played, but this weekend (4 and 5 September), the Tennent’s Leagues return to action in the opening round of fixtures for the 2021/22 season.
277 teams will make their welcome comeback to play across the men and women’s competitions this month.
This season, in-line with the men’s competition, highlights from the women’s Tennent’s Premiership league games will be shared across Scottish Rugby’s website and social media channels.
Across the men’s and women’s game 11 new teams will be joining league competitions for the first time, with four new men’s sides turning out and seven new women’s teams competing, showing a positive growth of playing numbers in some regional areas.
The four new men’s teams set to join the Tennent’s League set up are Turriff RFC, Aberdeen Taexali, Highland 3XV, Caithness 2XV and a joint team from Abertay University and Harris Academy 2XV.
In the Men’s league structure, the Tennent’s Premiership opening weekend will see two local derbies with Borders sides Jed-Forest RFC kick-start their campaign against Selkirk RFC, and Marr RFC playing Glasgow Hawks RFC in the west.
Musselburgh RFC face GHA RFC and Hawick RFC travel to Currie Chieftains in the other Premiership matches.
Speaking to scottishrugby.org, Musselburgh RFC Club Captain Danny Owenson said: “Personally, I am very excited about the return of competitive rugby. I have missed everything about a Saturday game day; the pre-game build up, the match itself obviously, and having a few laughs and reflecting on the game afterwards with past and present players in the clubhouse.
“The team are very much looking forward to it too. We have had good pre-season hit outs against Lasswade, Heriots, Gala, North Berwick and Melrose, and numbers at training in recent weeks have been consistently over 40 guys with a real buzz about getting back playing, so Saturday cannot come quick enough.”
Unfortunately, Aberdeen Grammar Rugby’s opening match against a travelling Edinburgh Academicals RFC has been postponed.
In the women’s competition, eight teams will commence their campaign for the Tennent’s National 1 title on Sunday 5 September.
The action will span the north and south of the country as Garioch welcome Broughton to Kellands Park, and Stewartry make their way to Violetbank to face Annan Warriors.
Topping their regional leagues in the 2019/20 season, West of Scotland and Kelso will play in National 1 for the first time. The Borders team received promotion to National 1 after Oban Lorne’s request to move into the West regional league was accepted.
West of Scotland originally won promotion from the West league beating East league winners Kelso with a score line of 10-35, so this opening fixture is sure to be an exciting game.
The Tennent’s Premiership for the women’s competition takes flight next weekend (12 September).
Following the decision to accept the request from Ayr Rugby Women’s 1st XV to step down from the Premiership to National League Division 1, their place in the Premiership was offered and accepted by Heriot’s Women’s 1st XV who were the runner up in the Premiership Play Off in Season 2019.
Having previously played for Hillhead Jordanhill (following in her mother’s footsteps) Heriot’s Kirsty McConnell steps into the role as Captain for the upcoming season.
“The girls know that this season will be a challenge but it’s a challenge we will relish, and we have been taking steps to get there with regards to both fitness and mindset,” said Kirsty.
“Our pre-season friendly against Watsonians a couple of weekends ago was brilliant. It allowed us to really start believing we are able to play at this standard. We defended solidly for 20 minutes and our shape in attack is really getting there."
“The club overall have been massively supportive. I really believe it is the start of something new and special.” Kirsty McConnell, Heriot's
Elsewhere in the competition structure, despite the challenges presented by Covid-19 in the last 18 months, the women’s game has grown exponentially.
As a result, seven new teams from across the country are set to enter the Tennent’s League structure for the upcoming season.
Women’s 1st XV teams from Dunfermline RFC, Dundee Valkyries, Strathmore RFC, Fraserburgh RFC, Bishopton RFC and Caithness RFC will transition into the competitive league structure from their previous regional development structure.
Cartha Queen’s Park also see the addition of their first Women’s 2nd XV enter the competitive set-up.
Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development, Gavin Scott said: “Players, coaches, referees and volunteers have been looking forward to getting back to the sport they love and now it’s just round the corner.
“Although the lifting of restrictions means that rugby can return, we still need to remain cautious because of the nature of coronavirus. We know that this season will be different because of this, but Scottish Rugby remain committed to supporting clubs respond to any challenges and continue to put player and volunteer safety first.
“It is still important for us to recognise that the resumption of competitive rugby in the Tennent’s leagues is hugely a positive step forward towards what I am sure will be an enthralling season of rugby.
“What is really encouraging is to see the expansion of new teams into our competitions, especially in the Women’s game and I wish all those moving into the competitive game all the very best for their inaugural season.
“I would like to add further thanks on behalf of Scottish
Rugby and the Rugby Development department to our clubs and volunteers who have
helped us reach this milestone in our Return to Rugby journey, and wish all
competing teams an enjoyable start to the season.”