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Greens looking at a return to regional set-up when rugby resumes

By Alan Hendry

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Caithness head coach Ewen Boyd: 'We are looking at opportunities not to play national league rugby.' Picture: James Gunn
Caithness head coach Ewen Boyd: 'We are looking at opportunities not to play national league rugby.' Picture: James Gunn

Caithness head coach Ewen Boyd reckons it will be August at the earliest before the Greens return to competitive action.

And he says there is no guarantee that the club will continue where it left off before the pandemic by returning to National League Three – with regionalised rugby appearing to be a more likely route.

The Greens had been fighting against relegation before the 2019/20 domestic season was declared null and void at the end of March.

Boyd believes it will be a much-changed landscape when the game does resume.

He says Caithness RFC is in a strong position but warns that other clubs may not be able to carry on as before.

“Our best-case scenario is going to be playing again in August,” Boyd said.

“We are looking at opportunities not to play national league rugby. We don't know what the set-up is going to be, and it wouldn't surprise me if the SRU [Scottish Rugby Union] does a rework anyway.

"There will be clubs that fold, there will be all sorts of stuff going on. How we come back into it, I don't know.”

Boyd explained that the Caithness squad is “in transition” and there will be a focus on bringing in younger players.

“Last year there were a few false starts. We probably thought we would get going by the back end of the year, in some form or another, but it just petered out obviously due to the circumstances and government guidance.

“It was difficult last year keeping the engagement and the interest going with no rugby to play. We trained to start with two times a week and then we took it back to Thursday night and Saturday morning sessions for different people in groups within the club.

“But we don't have those facilities or those opportunities just now with the government guidelines.

“People are training by themselves. They're using the likes of online forums and groups as well as My Name’5 Doddie [Doddie Weir's foundation, raising funds for research into motor neurone disease] – a lot of boys are participating in that, just to try and keep active.

“We're awaiting further information but I don't think the government is going to let us go back until a larger percentage of people have the vaccine and the numbers go down. It's going in the right direction but I think the SRU will take a different stance on it this time and they will take a long-term view and aim for August.

“There are possibilities of playing some form of non-contact rugby in the summer. We may look at getting some sort of inter-county touch league going.

“We've got women's teams and girls' teams and you can mix that up. That has proved successful in other clubs, just to get people active and interested again.

“It's difficult. The physical nature of rugby means that you need to be pretty much 100 per cent committed when you're playing and training.”

Boyd (45), who works as a Dounreay facility manager, added: “The club is probably in transition as well. We had an established team two or three years back and a lot of those players may now find themselves retired.

“When we get back it's going to be interesting to see how clubs survive. Some clubs will not have had any income but will have had outgoings throughout this whole time.

“We're lucky, we're in a decent enough financial situation, but we need to generate more players.

“We engaged well with our players up until Christmas time – we knew who we had kicking around and who had drifted away a little bit, and you couldn't blame them either.

We've got good facilities and we've got good links throughout the county, so we just have to keep ourselves positive and be in a good position to come back.

“When we do get back to playing there's going to have to be some form of engagement to get people going.

“I would say that our best-case scenario will be August – I think we'd be setting ourselves up for a fall if we did anything different from that.

“Every time you have a false start, somebody else drifts away.

“We had a focus on our younger, more emerging players coming through last year, and at the back end when we were doing our training, and I think that's what we will have to do going forward as well.

“It'll be interesting times for rugby clubs – the fact that you need 15 players on the park, plus five substitutes, in specialist positions, and you have to keep on generating the players.

“That's us a year out now and no rugby for the kids and for the under-18 players that we are looking to bring through.

“We've got a lot of interest in the county that has been generated over the years, and an awful lot of goodwill towards rugby, so we just have to build on that. The club itself is in a strong enough position to do that.

“We've got good facilities and we've got good links throughout the county, so we just have to keep ourselves positive and be in a good position to come back when we get the opportunity."

He added: “We're looking to go back and build a team for the next four or five years and to do that regionally rather than playing national league rugby."

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