The one thing I absolutely love about rugby is seeing the next generation make a mark on the big stage, trying to, and sometimes successfully competing with those internationals who have held their place for so long. But with the rugby calendar ever increasing and the demands on rugby player’s bodies getting more intense, isn’t it time for the Cup to get a revamp?
Monday night A league, or now as it’s known, Premiership Rugby Shield. A perfect opportunity for those senior academy players pushing for a spot in the first team to stretch their legs and get some valuable game time. The main objective of this league is to develop those young players in the Premiership. However, turnouts can be sketchy and sometimes the stands only reach the few very loyal supporters and friends and family, whilst some clubs could see a few hundred supporters.
Cast your minds to the Premiership Rugby Cup. The same principle of a platform for the younger players, but sometimes overlooked when clubs play big names to ensure silverware is on the cards. A much higher turn-out of fans and some fast flowing, no regrets rugby.
So why not merge the two?
Merging the Premiership Rugby Cup and the Shield is a big call; let alone the steps it would take to make this merger work. Nevertheless, surely it would be better for the game? Less rugby played in what is already a jam-packed schedule and an opportunity to showcase some of the best young talent.
But what about the senior players that play in the Cup? Well this is where I think it could come quite interesting. A lot of Sheild games feature some very good players who are coming back from injury, and this I think could be a strong point for the merger. Only senior players who are coming back from a lengthily injury should be available for selection or those who have played less than five games for their club across the Premiership and Europe.
The onus then being, that teams must pick senior academy talent to play, so that they can get some experience and know what it is like to compete for silverware.
There are already so many weekends taken up by the Gallagher Premiership, Europe, Six Nations and World Cups, so let’s keep this new league on the same day A league takes place – Monday night but have the television perks of the Cup. These games must be televised, let us see the talent that is coming through English domestic rugby.
Who wouldn’t like to go and see their clubs best young talent on display after work on a Monday? Something to lighten up the week. The majority of Shield fixtures are scheduled for a Monday evening, so there would be little change to the calendar in that respect.
Not only does this give young players an opportunity to showcase talent on a bigger stage, but it allows them to have a potentially rare opportunity of playing in front of a TV audience – something that is already present with the Cup, so it clearly can work.
WELCOME TO MATCH-DAY LIVE— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) December 22, 2019
Saracens Storm v Exeter Braves
Premiership Rugby Shield
Allianz Park (2pm) pic.twitter.com/wV7TTbwX5I
Arguably, there will be limited leaders on the pitch, making core decisions in crucial moments. However, allowing these young players to take on leadership roles and responsibilities can only benefit them for their future career. Give them a platform to really work upon and towards, to show to other players and coaches they have the ability to play really good rugby and push for a place in the starting team in the not so distant future.
That being said, some of these players will miss out on an opportunity to sign a senior contract, so why not give them something to pride themselves on and work towards before they get told they won’t make it in the Premiership.
So, what does this merger that I am so fond about actually mean? Well, the Shield is technically taken away, but with not only the incentive, but the rules that the academy players are the only players allowed to feature unless senior players have had a sustained injury or has played under five games for their club across the Premiership and Europe.
Essentially, Monday night Shield games turn into a new revised Premiership Cup. Better for the rugby calendar, more chances for young players to play in big matches and a great way to start your week. What’s not to love?