Divisional dilemma for regional rugby

Barnstaple Athletic

Barnstaple Athletic - Credit: Derek Parnell & Bob Collins

Barnstaple won’t be rushing to put their second team into the main league structure unless there is some common sense applied to registration regulations. 

As part of a major shake-up of divisional numbers National League level downwards, second teams will be able to enter the main league structure from 2022-23 onwards. 

Although second teams are permitted to join leagues in other areas of the country, including Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire, the RFU in Cornwall has always said ‘no’ in the far west. 

As second teams were banned from the jointly administered Cornwall & Devon division, they were not allowed into Devon One or the old Devon Two and Three divisions, as there was no prospect of progress. 

The RFU released a blueprint last month that implied that National League clubs’ 2nd XVs could be parachuted into a league division three levels below the 1st XV. In Barnstaple’s case that would be the current Western Counties West division. 

Chugg said there are big problems to iron out before Barnstaple would commit to putting their second team into the main league structure. 

“The big thing for us would be sorting out the registration rules to allow players to play in the first team one week and the seconds the next,” said Chugg. 

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“At the moment our 2nd XV is in the Devon Merit table and there are no restrictions in who can play. If a 1st XV player can’t travel to an away game, or was dropped to get some form, they can play in the second team. 

“In other parts of the country where second teams are in the main leagues you end up with segregated clubs, which we would not want at Barnstaple. 

“That means first teamers can only play in the first team and second teamers don’t want to help out the first team, as, once they do that, they can’t go back to the seconds. 

“Until players can float between teams, I can’t see us being interested.” 

It is another key question the RFU must answer as we move forward to a new era in regional rugby.  

Barnstaple v Exmouth

Barnstaple v Exmouth - Credit: Derek Parnell & Bob Collins


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