The new BUCS Super League has been a fascinating watch each Wednesday this term.
A fascinating watch and a thought-provoking one. With University rugby being on the mind, one thought keeps returning, should University rugby be given more support?
Not financial, nor facility wise, though of course both would be useful and welcomed, but in terms of player resources. Premiership clubs should be sending their players to Universities rather than lower league clubs on dual registration.
A big issue for players on dual registration is that they often actually do not get the playing time that they need, whereas with a University side they would. Not only that but it would be a great encouragement to young players to pursue higher education alongside their rugby career. Given the low chance of making the grade from school to academy to 1st XV, it is a good route to encourage as much as possible.
Not only that, but it would raise the standard of University rugby further, helping the non-academy players surrounding those academy players raise their level, perhaps seeing a few of those make the leap across to the professional game. It would also mean even more studying and analysis of University rugby by the professional clubs, seeing fewer players slipping through the net.
It is not all easy, there are issues surrounding which clubs players have contracts with and which Universities they get places at, though there are plenty of Unviersities and players are more than able to travel, they do so for Dual Registration clubs too. The other solution might be for clubs to have relationships with Universities and to have scholarship/bursary places available for players on the boundaries of the right grades.
One other issue is that not all academy players are able to go to University. However for those players dual registration would still be an option, so nobody is losing out in the scenario of clubs letting Universities use their players.
The likes of Jack Owlett and Exeter Chiefs and Exeter University have demonstrated that the University game is a useful tool, while Loughborough Students have been demonstrating that for years.
Most important of all though, it will grow the University game in the long run, perhaps eventually returning it to the stepping stone that between school rugby and senior club rugby that it once was. It is not the pathway for everyone, but it is the pathway for many, and one that should be supported as best as possible.
What do you think, would you like to see more academy players given the opportunity to play University rugby?