SO now we know. Edinburgh Rugby is the top team in Scotland and will do battle in the European Champions Cup next season with Glasgow Warriors in the second-tier Challenge Cup.

I was almost correct in my thoughts last week that Edinburgh would win but might not get enough points to secure the 1872 Cup, but they did so by three clear points so all the honours go to them.

Neither club will progress in the URC Championship this season, as they both face impossible quarter-final tasks a week on Saturday, with Warriors off to Dublin to face mighty Leinster and Edinburgh going to Cape Town to play Stormers.

Yes, Edinburgh did manage a draw at home to Stormers last October, but Stormers have improved and their home record against northern hemisphere sides is impeccable. They cuffed Warriors 32-7 last month and also beat Leinster, so while Edinburgh have notched a victory in South Africa, beating Sharks 21-5 back in March, I just can’t see them doing the same to Stormers.

At least there was uncertainty about who would end up playing who in the URC play-offs. Regular readers will know that I have a bugbear about the World Cup and the fact that the draw for the pool stages was made in December 2020 which has skewed the whole tournament. The draw makes it a virtual certainty that Scotland will not progress past the group stage while England have been given an easy passage to the semi-finals.

I am not alone in thinking this. Usually I don’t give a great deal of credit to professional sports people who become ‘journalists’, but I make an exception for those who can actually write about sport. Put it this way, Scotland’s best-ever sportswriter Hugh McIlvanney never rode a horse or fought in the ring, and he never played professional football, but as a writer on racing, boxing and football he was a genius. I could not name any former sports person who now writes like a genius, though for me the best of the bunch is former England fly-half Stuart Barnes, who never actually played professional rugby – he retired in 1994.

Barnes is not afraid to call a spade a shovel and has made a speciality of pointing out when the game’s authorities get things wrong, so I was delighted when he wrote a fiercely critical column about the World Cup’s organisation.          

 You will recall that the pools were drawn in reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic. For some reason World Rugby decided the seedings would be based on the world rankings at the start of 2020 – three years and nine months before the tournament starts.

At that time Wales were the reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions and ranked fourth in the world, so they were placed among the top seeds.

Due to their rankings at the start of 2020, Ireland and France - by far the best two teams in this year’s Six Nations who also provided all four teams in the 21-22 European Champions Cup semi-finals – were only seeded in Band 2.

Ireland are now ranked fourth and look at Wales – they are ninth in the rankings behind even Scotland in seventh and Argentina at No. 8.

Wales’ group with them as No 1 seed comprises Australia, Fiji, Georgia and a final qualifier. Meanwhile Scotland will have world champions South Africa and  Ireland to contend with, with Romania replacing the disqualified Spain and Tonga likely to be other team in what is the Group of Death – for us, that is. We were ranked ninth in January 2020, so that meant we were always going to have two higher-ranked teams above us, a reminder that Scotland needs to keep winning all the time.

Barnes wrote in The Times: “Unfortunately, the ridiculously early pool draw in December 2020 has distorted the next World Cup. Most would agree that an ideal is for the best quartet of teams to have the best opportunity of making the semi-finals. In France, two of the world’s leading contenders will be out before the semi-final stage.

“A maximum of two of the four (current) best sides can reach the semi-finals. This is a horrendous situation; the premature draw has damaged the competition.”

Barnes wrote that England have been handed the “kindest of draws”, up against Japan, Argentina and Samoa and that “Eddie Jones can make the last four with his highest-ranked opposition ranked eighth.”

The flaw in the argument by Barnes and me is that we are still well over a year from the World Cup in France, and teams’ form and their rankings will undoubtedly change after the Autumn Tests and the Six Nations.

But if the draw was being made today, Wales and not Scotland would be seeded in Band 3. For that reason I agree with Barnes – the draw was made ludicrously early.