IT MAY seem as if Melrose only just lifted their second Scottish Championship in a row and Gala were crowned Scottish Cup winners but the focus has switched quickly with the SRU announcing a series of derbies to launch the 2012-13 club season.
There will be a different shape to the club game after the summer with the new RBS Premier League kicking off with just ten teams, down from 12, above new ten-team RBS National League and RBS Championship Leagues.
The SRU have shifted from their original plan to name these divisions geographically and will instead call them A (which is effectively the west league) and B (the east league) which is a bit of a misnomer as clubs competing in the championship are at the same level.
The RBS Premier League will kick off on Saturday 25 August with Dundee hosting Aberdeen Grammar in a Caledonia derby and Edinburgh Accies heading out to Balerno to face capital rivals Currie. Melrose open away to Stirling County, who came through into fourth this season, while Gala welcome Heriot’s to Netherdale and Boroughmuir host Ayr in the first week. They head north to Aberdeen in week two, while Melrose then welcome Currie to the Greenyards, Dundee head to Ayr, Accies host Gala and Heriot’s welcome County to Goldenacre as what is destined to be a highly-competitive championship promises to move into a high gear from the start.
The four clubs competing in the enlarged British and Irish Cup have been drawn to meet each other in October, but that clashes with Cup weekends, and they will instead play the domestic league games during the November Test window. These fixtures, scheduled for the weekend of the New Zealand and Tonga Tests, include the big Border derby, which drew over 2,000 supporters to both league meetings this season, and starts this time with Melrose at home to Gala on the same weekend that Scotland face the Pacific Islanders, probably in Caledonia.
Stirling County and Dundee will also meet that weekend at Bridgehaugh with the games to be played either on Friday night or Sunday, or at least two-and-a-half hours before the Scotland kick-off.
The new RBS National League also starts with a Border derby at Philiphaugh between Selkirk and Kelso, with Glasgow Hawks at home to Watsonians and Hawick away to Stewart’s Melville.
The top National club will be promoted and the bottom Premier club relegated, but there will also be a play-off involving the second-top and second- bottom in April. The RBS Scottish Cup, Shield and Bowl Finals will be on Saturday, 20 April, 2013.
The regional leagues structure will remain the same with six RBS Caledonia divisions, three RBS East divisions and four west divisions all kicking off on Saturday, 1 September.
For full fixture list, go to: www.scottishrugby.org/community
All matches in the leagues will kick off at 3pm between Saturday 25 August and Saturday 27 October, then move to 2pm until Saturday 26 January after which they will return to 3pm.
In the RBS Cup, Shield and Bowl, regional and national ties will vary to allow for extra time. From Sunday 28 October to Saturday 26 January, 1.30pm will be the standard kick-off time and from Sunday 27 January to Saturday 16 February it will be 2.30pm. For the remainder of the season it will be 3pm.