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Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club hoping to organise East Anglia Cup after NCA Cup plans are scrapped

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Bury St Edmunds learnt this week that plans for them to play in the NCA Cup are not being revived – but they do have their league’s backing to attempt to stage their own regionalised version.

The RFU announced on January 6 it was abandoning plans to hold regional mini leagues to get sides across the country some competitive action in the Covid-19 hit 2020/21 campaign.

There had been some hope the National Clubs Association (NCA) – which runs and represents the National Leagues’ three divisions incorporating Bury’s – could still salvage its proposed replacement cup competition with a Twickenham final.

Nick Wakley is hoping to launch an East Anglia Cup. Picture: Mecha Morton
Nick Wakley is hoping to launch an East Anglia Cup. Picture: Mecha Morton

But NCA chairman John Inverdale told club representatives via a virtual meeting on Monday that the time-frames likely to be available would not work, when taking into account players returning to training.

However, it was not all bad news for Bury’s director of rugby and head coach Nick Wakley, who heard they would be supportive of helping clubs to stage their own slimmed-down regional versions, if they wished.

And that is something that Wakley is now very much swinging into action with in an attempt to put smiles back on faces of everyone connected with the GK IPA Haberden club and their nearest National League clubs.

“It was tinged with a bit of disappointment but I thought the NCA and John Inverdale came across very well and they are interested in what we as different clubs want,” he said.

“They have taken it on board and they know we cannot really get a cup going from an NCA point of view as we have not got enough time with there being so many hurdles to get over.

“What they have said is if we want to set up anything like a regional East Anglia cup they will support us with it in terms of referees, playing the middle men with other clubs and obviously helping us sanction it as a competition.”

The Wolfpack had been due to take part in a regionalised group stage in the NCA Cup against higher-league Bishop’s Stortford and Cambridge, while also including their National League 2 South rivals Old Albanian and Westcliff.

And Wakley is already starting to contact those sides with some dates to see if they would want to take part in their club’s ‘East Anglia Cup’ plan.

“We always knew this season was going to be a chance to prepare and get ready for next season and if we can attract some of those local derbies at the club towards April and May, what a fantastic thing that would be,” he said.

“The main thing is keeping something for the players to look forward to and buy into, as well as for the supporters, people at the club and our sponsors.”

The club’s plan would ideally see four teams play each other home and away before the top two end with a final at the first-placed team’s ground, with the bottom two then competing in a plate final.

Meanwhile, Wakley said it was also hotly debated on what the future will look like for the National Leagues, with the RFU planning to reorganise the pyramid for 2022/23.

The RFU proposes to reduce league sizes, introduce league break weekends and organising leagues that minimise travel as a result of individuals found to be playing less games due to lifestyle reasons and modern day demands on time.

It was said National League 2 could be split into a third league with perhaps five teams relegated from National 1 next season. Decisions, including promotion spots available in Bury’s league, will not be taken until some time in late April.

Increasing the profile of the leagues was also discussed with a highlight show at 6pm on a Sunday talked about being put into place.