Scottish Rugby has launched the BT Premiership, the country’s flagship domestic competition, for season 2015/16 ahead of the inaugural round of league games on Saturday August 29.
The league again comprises ten teams from all four Scottish regions, all of whom will play each other home and away.
After the introduction last season of video match analysis the ten clubs will be able to access national-team levels of individual player analysis through support from Scottish Rugby’s High Performance department.
The clubs recently attended a series of briefings from Scottish Rugby staff at BT Murrayfield in preparation for the new season.
Experts from the high performance and domestic rugby departments shared information on nutrition, coaching, refereeing, anti-doping, concussion and strength and conditioning.
Funding from Scottish Rugby is made available to all clubs in the BT Premiership to help improve player preparation and conditioning and the player analysis project is included in this.
Keith Russell, Director of Domestic Rugby said: “The BT Premiership is the pinnacle of club rugby in Scotland, and we look forward to the league commencing next weekend. There has been a lot of work in the pre-season to continue to increase the level of support the clubs receive so their players can develop their skills and performance levels in this, and the seasons to come.
“Through the BT sponsorship, we have injected consistent levels of investment into the domestic scene this year, which will help clubs continue to develop in Scotland.
“We would once again like to thank BT for their continued sponsorship and wish all the best to the teams and players involved across the course of the season.”
BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said: “We’re looking forward to a great season with the added excitement of the 2015 Rugby World Cup just around the corner. It’s fantastic to see some of the new initiatives outlined at the start of our partnership taking shape, including the launch of the national BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy and £400,000 of funding confirmed for 14 clubs across the country from the Club Sustainability Fund.
“We’re thrilled to see Scottish club rugby benefiting from our partnership, especially in the BT Premiership, and wish all the best to everyone taking part in the game at every level across Scotland.”
With three local derbies in four games, the opening weekend of the league fixtures promises to provide an action-packed and hard-fought start to the domestic campaign.
This season the BT Premiership welcomes back Border club Selkirk, who return to the top-flight for the first time since the 2010/11 season.
The men from Philiphaugh completed an undefeated league season in 2014/15 to gain promotion to the country’s primary competition, and will host local rivals Gala in their first round of games.
Melrose, who succumbed to Heriot’s in the dying moments of last year’s Grand Final, will welcome Hawick to The Greenyards in the second Border derby of the weekend.
Reigning league champions, Heriot’s, and BT Cup holders, Boroughmuir, will not feature in the first regular round of games, as they play for the BT Charity Shield on Saturday 29 August.
Following regular league matches, and as per season 2014/15, the BT Premiership will adopt a play-off format in which the top four teams will go on to play in a round of semi-finals with the triumphant sides progressing to a Grand Final.
The women’s BT Premier League gets underway this coming weekend with 2014/15 champions Murrayfield Wanderers FC Women travelling to rivals Hillhead Jordanhill in a repeat of the Sarah Beaney Cup Final.
Newly promoted Cartha Queens Park Women meet Stirling County and Melrose host RHC Cougars Women.