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Metro League overhaul adds spice with 11 divisions facing ups and downs of battle

THE Metro Leagues have caused major headaches over the past few seasons for competition organisers in the Leinster Branch.

Following a very-well attended Junior Rugby Forum in the Red Cow Hotel last month, at which 50 clubs turned up, the Competitions Committee has come up with a major overhaul of these leagues.

From next season, the Metro Leagues will be organised on a divisional basis; there will be 11 divisions with eight teams in each, while promotion and relegation between the divisions should add an edge to all end-of-year battles.

For years, the structure has been based on J1, J2, J3, etc, with AIL clubs' second 15s playing J1 and slotting in accordingly at the next grade down. But problems had arisen over the past few years as clubs made cases for skipping levels to the point where there were in effect only five teams playing in the J2 League this past season. And not so long ago the J2 League was one of the strongest and most vibrant leagues in the province.

The J2 and J3 leagues were amalgamated in 2012/13 in a desperate attempt to save the flagging competition, but while it worked to a certain degree, something far more drastic was needed to reinvigorate not only the J2 League, but indeed shake-up the entire structure of Junior rugby, particularly in the Metro Area.

Divisions 1, 2 and 3 will be made up of the 20 AIL second 15s, with four J2 teams from last season in Division 3 – the composition will primarily be based on results from last season.

Divisions 4 and 5 will be largely comprised of J3 teams, while the most populous competition, the J4 League, will now be contained in Divisions 6 to 9 and the J5 League will mostly make up Divisions 10 and 11.

Some basic regulations around the new structure will include; that a club can only have one team per division; one team from each division will be promoted and one relegated with play-offs to determine divisional winners; and as well as promotion and relegation, there will be full scrummaging in Divisions 1, 2 and 3, while the Under-19 scrummaging law variation will apply from Division 4 and below.

Sanctions against teams conceding walkovers will become more severe. Another significant change is in the area of uncontested scrums, where if a team cannot fulfil its front-row obligations and has to go with uncontested scrums, that team will drop a player (to 14 in most cases), while at the same time maintaining full numbers in its pack.