Last evening WRFU clubs overwhelming voted in favour of removing one team from the Jubilee Cup to create a seven team competition for 2018 onwards.
As a result the Hardham Cup will now consist of the bottom seven Premier teams at the completion of the Swindale Shield round (up one team from 2017).
WRFU Rugby Board Chairman Peter Scott remarked that “this was a significant change in Premier rugby, and the first change to the Jubilee Cup since a six team competition was played in 1995.”
The change was born out of recent consultation with clubs including a forum held with 2018 premier club coaches and club representatives in which the format was heavily preferred.
The revised format also allows for the Jubilee and Hardham Cup competitions to run concurrently, with the Hardham Cup returning to a semi-final/final playoff system and both finals being staged as part of the season ending Club Finals Day
Mr Scott added, “we recognise that the Hardham Cup format in 2017 wasn’t ideal, and the change shows that we as a Union remain fluid and illustrates that we are listening and are prepared to make changes based on what our Clubs want and vote for.”
Wellington Lions Head Coach Chris Gibbes agreed the change was positive. “Currently Wellington has the longest premier club rugby competition in the country. A bye week in the Jubilee and Hardham Cup rounds will be beneficial to players as they can have a break, and allows the Lions trainers to work with a bigger pool of players putting them through some conditioning ahead of our campaign.”
The Premier Reserve second round will have the same changes with the Ed Chaney Cup consisting of the seven Premier Reserve sides of the Jubilee Cup teams, and the HD Morgan Memorial Cup with the seven Premier Reserve sides of the Hardham Cup teams. This continues to ensure that every weekend each of the participating Clubs will have their Premier and Premier Reserve sides playing alongside one another.
WRFU CEO Steve Rogers believed the adjusted format would “stimulate real interest in the second round of premier club rugby in the capital next season, with the race to secure a place in the Jubilee Cup tighter than ever, whilst providing a stronger and more aligned Hardham Cup competition.”
The final draw for the 2018 Swindale and Harper Lock Shield will be published in early-December.
Recent History of the Jubilee Cup:
1996-2017: Eight teams with semi-finals and final
1995: Six teams with play-offs and final
1993-1994: Twelve teams with play-offs and final
1990-1992: Eight team round robin only