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Club Rugby Playoffs Could Be Much Changed When They Return

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Club Rugby Playoffs Could Be Much Changed When They Return

Belmont Shore likes winning. Brian Jackson photo.

The shutdown of senior club rugby due to COVID-19 and USA Rugby's bankruptcy could well be an opportunity to rethink how the club game sets its priorities.

Certainly rugby players across the country are climbing the walls since they can't play, and as GRR has discussed when talking about other levels of the game, it's not the playoff brackets that people miss, it's practicing and playing with your teammates.


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New Senior Clubs Competitions Committee head Erik Geib pointed out that the current season format for clubs was created when top players from D1 clubs were playing for the USA National Team. So the club season was set to try to avoid conflicting with the Eagles. Now the Eagles are likely to be playing in August more than June, and the D1 clubs don't send large numbers of players to the Eagles anymore.

"We have an opportunity to look at it and ask why 90% of the layers are on the sidelines in May and June when it's ideal playing weather," said Geib. "There is an opportunity now to come up with a system that finds a champion for a team that wants it, but doesn't blow up the calendar just for the playoffs."

That means maybe challenge matches, or a cup format, or just fewer teams in the playoffs might be the way forward. Regional cups, or a replication of the Women's Premier League championship weekend, where everyone in the league participates in a tiered system, could well be developed.

"There are some regions where national playoffs have been very important because clubs play in their own league but then want to see how they stack up," said Kirk Tate, the Chair of the USA Senior Club Council. "But there are other regions where they're happy to just be regional. But I think we do have an opportunity to make changes."  

The key factor in making these changes, added Geib, is that the regions want to work together. As Geib is looking for people to join the competitions committee, he said he is finding that the club representatives and regional reps are working together quite well. 

"You're seeing people from Florida, Texas, and New York making decisions that aren't just about benefiting their regions, but benefiting the game as a whole."

What could we see then? We could seasons stretch further into June. We could see a reduction in the sheer number of clubs that enter any specific divisional playoff. We could see playoffs or championships where everyone knows they are attending before the beginning of the season (or at least the end of the season), as per the WPL or the current high school championships. It could be that teams qualify through a cup tournament format, or because of last year's success, or they just go to the finals and get seeded based on their season (WPL). 

What's clear is, it could all be very, very different.