Fixtures for the forthcoming 2023/24 season across the schools, youth and adult game have been released by Scottish Rugby.
All fixtures can be found on Scottish Rugby’s website, HERE*.
Kicking-off proceedings this season are the women’s leagues which will begin Saturday 19 August.
As per the National Competition Rules following last season’s restructure, the Premiership has been expanded to eight teams. Joining the Premiership this season will be Stewartry RFC, after the Castle Douglas side qualified by topping the National 1 Division in 2022/23.
Premiership title winners, Stirling County will open their 2023/24 season campaign away to Heriot’s Blues whilst league newcomers Stewartry visit Cartha Queens Park.
Elsewhere in the competition’s opening weekend, Garioch will host Corstorphine Cougars at Kellands Park and Hillhead Jordanhill will travel east to face Watsonians.
Once more, following on from last year’s announcement, a further suite of changes is set to commence across the women’s game this year, starting with the realignment of the existing National League programme.
Teams below the Premiership will be reallocated into three regional league structures, of which each has at least two divisions. The winner from each regional ‘Division 1’ league will then progress to a ‘National Play-off Series’, a focussed and progressive competition structure affording the winner promotion to the Premiership.
It is anticipated that more than 50 teams will play across the three regional structures, with new teams joining the fold including Perthshire, Bannockburn, Ross Sutherland and Hillhead Jordanhill 2XV.
This competition format will remain in place for the 2024/25 season, as will the Aspiring Leagues and Evolution Series programmes, which continue on from the 2022/23 season.
Venue and dates for the Aspiring Leagues fixtures will be confirmed later in the summer.
There will also be a series of changes to the men’s season structure, which were previously announced in April.
At the top end of the game, five structures will operate including the Premiership, and four National Divisions, each comprising of ten playing teams. This is an expansion of an additional National Division, following on from the approved motion in the 2022 AGM to expand to four divisions.
With GHA relegated to National Division 1, last season’s Division 1 winner, Kelso now join the Premiership.
Opening fixtures of the men’s leagues will take place from Saturday 2 September.
Defending league-cup Champions Hawick will begin their double defence this coming season hosting Glasgow Hawks at home in the opening round of the Men’s Premiership.
Last season’s runner up, Currie Chieftains will travel to the Borders to face Selkirk whilst Heriot’s Blues host Marr at Goldenacre.
Kelso will make their season debut away to Musselburgh, and Edinburgh Academical travel south to take on Jed-Forest.
In the Men’s National Division 1, newly promoted Glasgow Academicals will commence their season away to Ayr, whilst GHK take on Biggar at home.
Men’s National Division 2 kicks off as league newcomers Gordonians take on Peebles. The Aberdeen city side are joined in Division 2 by Stirling County, Stewart’s Melville and Aberdeen Grammar following their relegation from Division 1.
There are five new teams in the Men’s National Division 3. Hamilton Bulls, Preston Lodge, Dumfries Saints, Boroughmuir and Cartha Queens Park all join from Division 2 as a result of the creation of a fourth Division.
Following their qualification from the Regional Divisions, the ten teams who complete the newly established National Division 4 are: Garnock, Ross High, North Berwick, Dunfermline and Stewartry. Greenock Wanderers, Whitecraigs, Strathmore, Perthshire and Murrayfield Wanderers also join following their exit from National Division 3.
Below National 4 the leagues remain in separate regional competitions, although as per consultation and approval by the Club Rugby Board (CRB), there are a number of changes to their structures.
One of the key developments for the 2023/24 season is the creation of Regional Development Leagues across the country, centred on participation. This structure has been created in response to challenges relating to fluctuating player numbers for additional teams across the region. It is hoped these competition structures will support player retention and be utilised to provide social rugby opportunities.
The ambition of the Development Leagues is to provide opportunities for teams to build towards playing in the competitive league structures in the future but at a pace that reflects the individual teams being supported by the Regional Development Teams and Competition Committees.
More information on the changes expected across the men’s game can be found, HERE.
A review of the Cup competitions will commence in the coming months, as a result of the increase to the number of teams in the National Leagues and the revisions to the Regional League structures.
Following on from the revival of the Scottish Inter-District championship a review is underway with representatives from the four districts along with the Scottish Rugby Vice President and CRB Chairman, Keith Wallace, to understand how the programme can be further enhanced and establish when in the season this programme will be played.
INSPIRESPORT YOUTH & SCHOOLS COMPETITIONS
The upcoming season for the school game includes seven Conferences for boys at U13, U14, U15, U16 and U18 levels.
The inspiresport Schools Conference fixtures were communicated to participating schools on Wednesday 31 May.
There are a series of updates to the competition structures for the U16 and U18 girls’ game for the 2023/24. The decision to explore changes to existing playing structures was prompted by the continued growth in player numbers across the country, and strongly influenced by Scottish Rugby’s Women and Girls’ strategy.
The latest changes have been formulated by Rugby Development’s competition team utilising data on current active players from the girls’ game in the 2022/23 season*, along with information from a consultation previously conducted in 2020.
The data used has allowed for the creation of tailored formats which are reflective of current playing populations, have been designed specifically to provide increased access to high-quality game time, whilst also allowing for greater future proofing of the girls’ game as it continues to grow.
In addition to this, format and calendar changes for the season now reflects a segmented approach focussed on player welfare, whilst providing clear space for progression and development into Scottish Rugby’s Pathway programmes in a timeframe which has minimal impact to the domestic game.
From 2023/24, there will be a four-tiered competition approach at the U16 and U18 age grades, comprising of two National Division Leagues, a National Aspiring League and a Regional Evolution programme.
It is anticipated that the three National competitions more than 600 players will be supported to access enhanced competitive game time, with clubs allocated to participate in leagues based on their current player numbers.
The Regional Evolution programme has been designed specifically for clubs with player numbers ranging between one to six players.
Tailored to each individual region’s needs, the Regional Evolution programme will allow for regular game play opportunities in line with the development of a broader base of players through Scottish Rugby’s Development Officer network, School Rugby Officers, and girls’ Community Coaches.
The programme will aim to provide access to flexible, quality game time in localised, safe and managed environments, focussed on player development.
The new structures have also allowed for the integration of Cup competition structures, which allows for increased game play opportunities alongside an additional opportunity for competitive play.
*Should any club have any issues regarding ground availability for any match, or should a team wish to fulfil their fixture at an alternative day or time (for example, a Friday night or mid-week), they are asked to contact their opponents and mutually agree to alternative arrangements before contacting the relevant Competition Committee for approval. Scottish Rugby’s website will then be amended subject to approval.
*Data based on players registered at least once on a team sheet in 2022/23.