Kudos to Portobello Rugby Club in Edinburgh for making sure that their annual end of season dinner went ahead last Saturday night despite the very obvious obstacle of social distancing making it impossible to get all 50+ guests into one room at the same time.

Instead, the event was held via Zoom with the players starting their evening making pizzas in their own kitchen using a kit supplied by one of the club’s sponsors, before SRU vice-president Ian Barr did a turn as guest speaker. There was then a question and answer session which brought a lively debate on how the current pause in rugby caused by the Covid-19 crisis should be used as an opportunity to reset the season structure to make it more attractive to kids and amateur adults.

The thrust of the argument put forward by almost every player on the call was that playing sport on warm, dry days is more enjoyable and more conducive to developing both individual and team skills than on cold, wet days.

Summer rugby means that more matches are likely to go ahead, which makes it easier for players to build the habit of playing on a weekly basis, and easier for committee members to attract the support of local sponsors who are the lifeblood of the game.

The logic was that players who currently want to persevere with the sport have to get used to playing with frozen fingers, sodden strips, slippy balls and quagmire pitches – if the games go ahead at all. In that context, it is hard to think of many ways of making it any harder for aspiring players to develop their skillset.

The suggestion that rugby at grassroots level needs to stay in the winter to avoid clashing with cricket, golf and athletics was laughed off by players, who took a straw poll and agreed unanimously that rugby should be far more concerned about going head-to-head against football.

Other considerations, such as clashes with summer holidays and the Borders Sevens circuit, the difficulty in finding volunteers willing to give up their weekends during the sunny months, and the possibility of pitches and other facilities being unavailable, were less easily shrugged off – but the overwhelming consensus amongst those involved in the discussion was that a sport staring into the abyss as far as participation numbers is concerned needs to start thinking seriously about radical change if it wants to survive in the post Covid-19 world, when we are likely to find that peoples’ priorities have shifted even further away than they were before from being prepared to suffer for their sport simply because that is the way it has always been.

This is not a new debate. It has been rumbling along for decades without really gaining meaningful traction. It was part of the recent consultation process with clubs conducted by Scottish Rugby’s director of domestic rugby, Sheila Begbie, but did not muster the groundswell of support required to justify such a significant change in the adult male game.

Covid-19 came along before that consultation/review process was fully completed, with issues such as national 2nd XV leagues still to be resolved, but it was established that 10-team divisions playing out a full league schedule from late-August/early-September before moving on to cup competitions was the preferred route forward for adult male rugby – so, really, it was about maximising the quality and quantity of games inside the existing window for club rugby.

Then, Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson appeared to embrace the prospect of moving club rugby to the summer when he said last week that: “From my point of view, on a personal level and from a Scotland level, we’re very happy with the idea of summer rugby. We think it’s good for participation at grassroots level, we think it is going to be something that takes the game forward.”

But we should not read too much into this. That sentence was uttered amid a long conversation about shifting the global rugby calendar so that the two hemispheres are better aligned to produce more international and pro games which will appeal to television broadcasters, sponsors and so on. Dodson has a habit of chucking out lines which suit the case he is pushing at that moment in time and dealing with unintended consequences at a later date. The reality is, the timing of the men’s senior club game in Scotland is water off a duck’s back to the chief executive.

We can take him at his word that he thinks playing rugby in the summer makes more sense through the fact that both the Super6 league he set up to sit above the club game last year and the recently revamped women’s domestic season now miss out the cruellest months of winter. But the men’s club game is a heavier beast to roll over – it has been around longer and is generally more entrenched (mostly with very legitimate reasons for wanting a status quo) – so Dodson would be a fool to embroil himself in another divisive battle with the clubs on this subject.

But one area where there could be more scope for change is with mini and youth rugby. A group of clubs in the west have been advocating what they call ‘Better Weather Rugby’ (or ‘Blue Sky Rugby’) for several years, which involves kids playing from March to November. There is a sense that Scottish Rugby has been reluctant to embrace this idea, and a strong suspicion that this is because the rugby-playing schools don’t want change, but anyone who has watched a skinny 10-year-old shivering on a rain-lashed and windswept pitch in the middle of January will surely acknowledge that there should at least be a proper debate about this.