Rugby Union: Metcalfe slams Scots' structure

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND'S FULL-BACK, Glenn Metcalfe, admitted he may play his rugby elsewhere next season if officials cannot come up with a suitable structure for the professional game north of the border.

The New Zealander, who has lived in Glasgow for several years, is ready to leave if the super districts are not given a competitive fixture list.

Metcalfe missed much of Glasgow Caledonians' European Cup campaign through injury this season but proved his fitness sufficiently in the Welsh Rugby Union Challenge Trophy last month to win back his international place.

Last Saturday's Five Nations win over Wales was the 27-year-old's home debut after his first caps against Australia last summer, but Murrayfield may be the only venue Scottish rugby fans can catch him in future.

The Reds' disappointing showing in the European Cup, where they failed to reach the knockout stages, has led many to question the wisdom of the amalgamation of Glasgow and the Caledonia Reds.

And while the Edinburgh Reivers fared slightly better but still faltered on the verge of the quarter-finals, Metcalfe believes a return to a more regionalised structure may be the answer.

"I still want to play rugby in Scotland but everything has to be right off the pitch for that to happen," he said yesterday.

"If it is anything like the structure this year, I am not sure I want to be part of it because I want to play meaningful rugby every week.

"We had a great squad with Caley this year but even getting everyone together at one venue for training was difficult.

"We all got on really well but we never really got the chance to create that club spirit with people coming from all over. We should have been taking teams apart with the players we had but I think we lost a bit of that club feeling where you play the game and then go and have a drink together afterwards.

"Instead we had people driving a couple of hours a day to get there and heading their separate ways afterwards."

While talks are currently taking place aimed at the creation of a possible "Celtic" or "Gaelic" league for next season, Metcalfe believes Ulster's European Cup triumph has provided a possible template for Scotland to follow.

"Professionalism shouldn't change things so much to the point where you are not enjoying the rugby," he added. "And we need to find a different structure. Maybe we should go the way of the Irish and get back to four districts again."

While his long-term future, like many other home-based players, remains uncertain for the time being, Metcalfe now has his sights fixed on Scotland's game at Twickenham next Saturday.

After the intensity of the opener against Wales, he admits the Five Nations experience lived up to his expectations.

"It was a big buzz for me, being my first Five Nations game, and speaking to a few people back in New Zealand afterwards all I could say to them was that it was more than just a game of rugby," he said.

"There is so much added pressure with there being only four matches and there is no leeway or margin for error.

"But I felt a lot calmer and more controlled beforehand because I do suffer from nerves. I was told to run the ball back at them as much as possible and I thought I did that OK."

Metcalfe took time out to give high-school children in Drumchapel - on the outskirts of Glasgow - a master class today alongside his Scotland team-mate Gordon Bulloch as part of a rugby initiative throughout Scotland's schools.

"It is good to come back and be involved in this kind of project," said Bulloch, who has risen through the ranks at district and national levels to become his country's No1 hooker.

"You come to schools like this and you can see the raw talent that is there. If even only one small child wants to take up the game and shows up, well, then it is worthwhile."