IS there any corner of rugby’s oval world where play-offs don’t exist and a team that wins each match of the regular season actually becomes champions right away without all the subsidiary shenanigans of semi-finals and “grand” finals?

Is there an international club tournament somewhere in which every team that qualifies for the knockout stages does so straightforwardly, and not because they are third-best, runners-up or scored more tries on a Tuesday than their opponents?

These curmudgeonly thoughts were prompted by two events at the weekend.

One was the fact Scottish rugby saw its first play-offs of the season on Sunday, with Watsonians beating Hillhead-Jordanhill in the final to win the women’s Premiership title.

The other was Glasgow Warriors’ Champions Cup defeat by La Rochelle on Saturday, and the befuddlement that followed as we tried to work out what Dave Rennie’s team need to do now to reach the last eight.

The women’s leagues, in fact, had three play-offs at the end of part one of their season, with Ayr also defeating Heriot’s of National League One to preserve their place in the top flight, and West of Scotland beating Kelso in the Regional League play-offs to win promotion to Nat One.

In the case of regional leagues, you can accept there should be play-offs to determine which club goes up to the national set-up. But Ayr’s victory in the relegation/promotion play-off means that no-one from National One, not even the champions, goes up – and that begs the question: what is the value of winning National One if you can’t progress to the next level?

As for Watsonians, they had already beaten Hillhead/Jordanhill twice in the regular season. The Glasgow club might well think differently but, to some of us raised on traditional league structures, it would have seemed strange if they had become champions by winning one game out of three against their biggest rivals.

Of course, the women’s leagues are not alone in having this set-up. In the men’s Premiership and in Super6, for example, the top four play off at the end of the season, and in both cases that produces a certain imbalance.

In the Premiership, Marr and Currie have been out in front since the early weeks, with the Ayrshire club now having beaten their Edinburgh rivals twice.

A strong run of form has seen Hawick come through as favourites to finish third, while Selkirk, Aberdeen Grammar, GHA and possibly several others are in a fight for the fourth and final play-off place.   

We’ll leave a detailed assessment of Super6 for another day, but it is worth pointing out that play-offs which involve two-thirds of the teams in the league are particularly problematic.

But, if the main argument against play-offs is they devalue the integrity of the traditional league season, at least they are determined by head-to-heads. The difference in the Champions Cup is that you can finish second in a pool but still be eliminated because a team you have not played against ended up with a better points differential, perhaps thanks to having been pooled with the weakest side in the tournament.

It’s an unbalanced and unjust system, in which too much depends on the luck of the initial draw.

So, when the rugby authorities come to me and ask how the game should be restructured – as they are sure to do any century now – the response will be simple. Let’s have leagues with no play-offs, and a Champions Cup of 16 teams in which the top two in each of the four pools go through. Commercial and other considerations – such as the compulsive need of administrators to meddle – will militate against such simplicity. But you know it makes sense.