Will it be an advantage in terms of intensity to be playing in the British and Irish Cup or an extra strain that impacts on chances of capturing the Scottish rugby Premiership?
Now in a streamlined ten-team format, the Premiership kicks off today with that burning question hanging in the air.
I believe the eventual champions will come from within Scotland’s B&I quartet and it is hard to look beyond Melrose as a team who set the standards and have just enjoyed a prestigious pre-season trip to Sale Sharks.
Such invites from England’s elite are not handed out easily and there is a drive and focus about Craig Chalmers’ men that is hard to ignore. Of the Capital contingent, Edinburgh Accies look dark horses, having put together an intriguing blend of youth and experience, while Boroughmuir seem to have pulled back from the brink after financial woes threatened their continuation as a top-flight operation.
Currie will draw on a community spirit that is second to none and their traditional hard edge will need to be replicated by Heriot’s, who look capable of playing attractive rugby but with a question mark against their ability to grind out results.
Not to be underestimated is the role played by centrally contracted professionals occasionally released back to the club scene – or the way such scenarios are handled.
What is undoubtedly certain is that it promises to be the most skilful Premiership campaigns of the professional era, backed up by a new resolve amongst clubs that they are capable of going out and selling a product themselves.
Nobody is advocating breaking links with Murrayfield but a bit more autonomy has long been needed to maximise the Premiership’s potential.
Prediction: 1. Melrose. 2. Ayr. 3. Edinburgh Accies; 4. Boroughmuir.