SRU president Ian Barr has insisted that the governing body remains committed to the idea of a national league structure and that the regional set-up due to be launched next month is designed for this season only.

Continuing Covid-related concerns expressed by a number of clubs led the union to come up with the new plan, which will see most of the season played in regional pools in both the women’s and men’s games. The men’s Premiership and National One clubs will be in one group of pools, with National Two and Three in another. The pool stage will be followed by three finals, expected to be held at Murrayfield, with one each for the best-performing Premiership teams, National One teams, and Two and Three combined.

In the women’s leagues, the six Premiership and eight National One teams will be grouped together in the same pools set-up, to be followed by two finals, one for each division.

“We’ve tried to come up with a model which is basically going to restart club rugby,” Barr said yesterday. “I think everybody was desperate for us to do something. We weren’t going to please everybody, but the vast majority of clubs were looking at playing some sort of regionalised rugby, so this is just to get club rugby up and running.

“At the moment, there is no intention to continue this [beyond season 2020-21]. This is purely because the season has been curtailed by Covid. We have been very clear this is only about coming up with a solution that is going to get us through these difficult times.

“I know there was a slight fear from some people that this was regionalising all forms of club rugby, but this is certainly not about that. This is about finding a model to restart club rugby and getting everyone back up and running again.”

October 31 has been pencilled in as the date for the domestic game to kick off, although that is dependent on the Scottish Government deciding it is safe to do so. The SRU has yet to determine how much funding it will be able to give clubs, but Barr warned that, at a time when the union is trying to find £14million of savings, the domestic game cannot expect to be immune from cutbacks. “Let’s be honest, the new funding model has to fit with what Scottish Rugby has had to do with all aspects of the business,” he added. “We’ve had to cut costs everywhere.”