Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Under-18 Cup action returns to the calendar next week with a spate of first-round ties but, significantly, there are no entrants from the state sector in the top tier competition.

The reason, of course, is that very few state schools are able to run viable senior teams and consequently feel that entering the cup would be, at best, a waste of time and effort and, at worst, psychologically damaging to players unused to the high level of rugby played on the independent schools' circuit.

The reality is that rugby at under-18 level has changed. Now under-18 rugby in the state sector is a wasteland, albeit schools like Carrick Academy, Marr College and North Berwick High have bucked the trend of diminishing extra curricular sport.

State school boys, and girls, in S4-S6 play their rugby through clubs which, of course, is what happens in just about every other sport. Think swimming, think athletics. In our nearest European neighbour, France, it is the local club (often municipal) that is the agent for promoting rugby.

In Scotland there remains what is a historical fixture list in the independent sector, although that is coming under strain as a small number of ambitious rugby schools power away from the rest of the field. Under-18 club rugby, though, has responded, to produce a competitive structure that schools must now envy and which is a credit to forward thinking on the part of Scottish Rugby.

That competition is the under-18 national youth league, but its weakness is that it is not truly national because the Border semi-junior clubs, including the Youth Cup holders, Jed-Thistle, have not signed up.

There are, then, two separate strands: the independent schools' circuit which produces some excellent rugby; and the club national league and the Border semi-junior league. Some years back, at a Scottish Rugby annual meeting, a motion was passed to bring schools rugby and club rugby closer. Nothing ever came of this. Yet it should remain a goal.

One way of achieving it would be to open the Brewin Dolphin competition to allcomers. In other words, drop the notion of it being a schools competition and reinvent it as the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Under-18 Cup.

St Aloysius College play their first-round tie against Dundee High at Mayfield on Saturday and, in the under-16 cup, the Glasgow school is in action tomorrow against Glenalmond at Perth. On Thursday, Glasgow Academy take on Fettes College in the under-16 Cup at New Anniesland, while a week tomorrow, Glasgow High and Hutchesons' Grammar School clash at the same age level.