Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club hopeful of taking on Cambridge, Bishop's Stortford and Westcliff in 'East Anglian League Cup'
Plans for Bury St Edmunds to return to action in a regionalised mini competition with other National League sides have been finalised and club officials are now just waiting for the required easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
The ‘East Anglian League Cup’ would see The Wolfpack go up against higher-league Cambridge and Bishop’s Stortford, as well as their fellow National League 2 South rivals Westcliff in a round-robin competition.
The format of play is hoped to be 15-a-side with contact or adapted contact, but is dependent on what the RFU is able to get signed off by the department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
Fixtures have been drawn up with the first round of matches set for April 3 and concluding with a finals day seven weeks later – with the top two and bottom two playing off on May 15.
Bury officials decided to drive the idea forward after the National Clubs Association (NCA) their league is run by reluctantly scrapped plans to try to stage a wider cup competition for its 48 members.
March 7 will mark a year since Bury were last in competitive action, and director of rugby and head coach Nick Wakley is keen to bring that to an end as soon as possible.
“I think it was key for us to give the players, the supporters and the clubs something to really aim for and be positive about,” he said.
“The coaches involved from all the sides have bought into it which is great.
“Obviously it is out of our hands with what is going to happen in the next couple of months but fingers crossed that we can overcome any hurdles and get back to training. If we can get back to training then we’re in business.
“The NCA have been very supportive about us doing our own thing and trying to get some rugby for the supporters.
“If we can get the infection rates down and the vaccines out then we’ll hopefully see some rugby in April and May.”
If things do not work out as planned with the timescales, Wakley believes there is still the option of pushing the dates further back and adapting the format, perhaps to a 10-a-side touch tournament.
He also said the competition was not necessarily dependent on crowds being able to return to their grounds, with the possibility of clubs being able to stream the matches online.
He said: “The ducks are in a line so if things do change we can get on board and hopefully get some rugby out there.”
Bury’s first game back is planned to be at home to Cambridge on April 3 ahead of a trip to Westcliff the following weekend before hosting Bishop’s Stortford on April 17. The fixtures would then be reversed.
Around 80 per cent of the squad that was due to play the current campaign are said to have signed up to be part of next season.
But it is not yet clear whether former England international Tom Varndell, signed in the summer as a player-coach fresh from retiring from the professional game, will be a part of those plans. He is among the signings yet to play a game for the club.