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Third franchise still an aim for the future but pandemic reality means Scottish Rugby must cut its cloth

Scotland director of performance rugby Jim Mallinder.
Scotland director of performance rugby Jim Mallinder.

A third franchise – either in the Guinness PRO14 or elsewhere – should be a key aim of Scotland in the future even if the current pandemic crisis won’t allow it for the time being, says the SRU’s director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

Mallinder announced the decision yesterday to place all of Scotland’s current crop of FOSROC Academy players with the two pro teams, believing contact with the Edinburgh and Glasgow coaching teams and mentoring by senior players will see them develop faster.

It’s all a design to get more Scottish qualified players competing at a higher level as soon as possible, but Mallinder thinks that a third franchise is something that should be actively considered.

“I don’t have an answer now but I think (a third team) is something that we should really consider, to try and get as many Scottish players playing at a high level as we can possibly do,” he said.

“Whether that’s a third franchise playing in the PRO14, or somewhere else, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s going to happen in the near future or in the current climate but it’s something we should look forward towards doing.”

Roughly half the Rugby World Cup squad in Japan were developed outside Scotland and while they’ll continue to scout for those players, Scottish Rugby want to build more of their own.

“We would all want to produce more Scottish developed players and that’s why we’re moving the academies into the pro teams,” said Mallinder.

“We think this is a better process and a better way of doing it, and hopefully we will see more and younger Scottish qualified players and those brought up in the academies coming through, representing the pro teams and ultimately going on to play for the national team.”

15 players have been allocated to each of the pro teams and Mallinder thinks this is perfect place for them to fulfill their potential.

“At 18 and 19 these lads are much more mature in terms of how they play the game and that’s because of the work the academies have been doing.

“Being in the culture of the pro teams is important and one of the outstanding things that can happen is that they can be mentored by senior professional players – learning from senior players with lots of caps on a day-to-day basis will be so important.

“Also, the coaches can see the young players now. When lots of the internationals are away there will be really good opportunities for them to play, and 15 on 15 sessions midweek will give coaches a great chance to see what the young guys can do.”

Meanwhile, the pro players’ voluntary return to Murrayfield for strength and conditioning work with running and weights is into its second week, and two weeks on Monday it will be “back to work” in earnest.

“They will be coming off furlough after the first month, and all the coaches will be back as well,” he said. “At the moment it’s S&C work to set them up and the second month it’ll be more directive coaching and training.”

Mallinder still wants to scout for more Scottish qualified talent and bring them to play in this country, but the financial realities of the pandemic mean that is all on the back burner right now.

“We’ll be relying on the players we have here to finish last season’s campaign,” he said.

“I know speaking to Danny (Wilson) and Richard (Cockerill) they really want to finalise squads and go out and get one or two players more to come in, but right now everything’s on hold.”

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