As we enter in to the first set of LV Cup games I thought it might be worth looking into what the competition still holds for the clubs and supporters involved.
Firstly, it gives the winners and opportunity to play in top level European rugby (whatever that will look like) for the following season. That’s a big carrot to dangle, especially for the Premiership teams, many of whom will see this as their only real route into it.
Secondly, it means guaranteed Anglo-Welsh games every season, a rugby rivalry that should be promoted as much as possible. It gives teams from both sides of the Bridge the chance to test themselves against each other.
Thirdly, it allows club matches to be played on International weekends. This was not always the case and don’t be fooled, not every rugby fan is preoccupied about how their National team is doing. Many would much rather watch their players playing in their colours.
This, however, brings with it what many see as the major downside of the competition. There are no ‘superstars’ involved so why should we pay and go to watch, what in many cases, is two second fifeteens playing against each other? It’s a valid point and gate figures this weekend will be down from what would normally be expected for a league match.
It’s not a point I agree with though. Yes, many of the big named players might be elsewhere, but with that brings opportunities for others. No where was this point made better than at my club, Sale Sharks, last season. Stuck in a relegation dogfight, the LV Cup brought an escape, and with it the chance for new players and a new team spirit to build, which was then transferred to their league play. Players such as Nathan Fowles, Tom Holmes, Ross Harrison and Tommy Taylor were given their head in, what to them, were incredibly important games. It is now no surprise to see all four of them as regular first team squad members now.
Wins at home to Saracens and Scarlets and away at Wasps led Sale to a semi final against Saracens again. Who could forget Andy Powell’s one man wrecking ball of a game?, leading the team almost single-handedly in to the final against Harlequins. As we now know that was, unfortunately, a step too far for the team but the victories and memories that the run generated helped the team and it’s supporters out of some tricky times, something that a good run in a competition like this can do.
That’s why there should always be a place for tournaments like this. It gives players a chance to win something, be it a medal or a chance to improve their game against the best Europe has to offer. It gives the supporters the chance to see what their stars of the future look like today. And if you’re lucky enough it leaves you with memories that can’t be taken away.