THERE has been plenty talk in recent weeks about how the long process from full lockdown to returning to full-contact rugby will play out. From training in isolation, to training in small groups, to controlled games, to closed-door matches and so on – the road ahead is long, far from straightforward and always subject to changing government advice.

The latest “club communication” from Murrayfield – sent on behalf of Scottish Rugby’s chief operating officer Dominic McKay on Thursday – made it clear that their focus is very much centred on getting the pro game back up and running, which is not surprising given that this is where their biggest overheads lie, not to mention their best chance of generating revenue.

But even if Scottish Rugby manage to transform the national stadium into a “bubble” where players can train and ultimately play behind closed doors or with strict social distancing rules in place, there is the question of who they are going to play against? Given that the PRO14 is spread over five countries (each at a different stage in their pandemic response), that competition is not likely to be returning in its full glory any time soon.

New Zealand have already adapted to a similar problem by launching their Super Rugby Aotearoa league which will see their five pro franchises (who usually play against opposition from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) take on each other instead, behind closed doors, over 10 weeks starting on June 13.

With only two full-time professional teams, the scope for creating a meaningful domestic competition for Scotland’s top players is not quite so straightforward – because endless 1872 Cup matches between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors will get pretty boring pretty quickly.

This is where Super6 (the part-time professional tier which was launched last November) could be handed its moment to shine. There is already precedent for handfuls of pro players in need of game time being released down to Super6 each week, so could this be extended to eight, nine or even more full-timers – in order to create a competition which will allow players game time and create a positive focus for rugby fans who have been starved of live action?

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend was less than enthusiastic about that format when discussing this possibility during a conference call on Thursday – but also acknowledged that nothing is off the table.

“Playing at the level below will help those guys at the level below, absolutely, but it wouldn’t be the ideal situation for our top pro players,” he said.

“I think the guys who are semi-pro playing guys at a higher level would get a lot out of that. What you want for your players is them playing at the highest level they can play at, so Edinburgh playing in the PRO14 and going into play-offs brings the best out of those guys, and international players playing other international teams brings the best out of them.

“[But] I think you have to have an open mind on what you are able to do. The model of New Zealand playing internally and potentially games against Australia could be the restricted model that we have to go to.

“I’m thinking more at international level – Scotland playing England, Wales and potentially Ireland – but it could be narrower than that, with Glasgow and Edinburgh playing against each other, or players just below that level competing against each other. Who knows? If the format needs to be narrowed then we just have to adapt to that.”

The reality is that there is not going to be a perfect solution to such a complicated problem – and compromises need to be made. There has been a lot of talk about rugby collaborating on the world stage, but Scotland’s pro teams might also have to think about lowering their horizons in the short-term in order to get the show back on the road.