One of the points of contention in American club rugby is how top clubs can field teams in lower divisions.
Those lower-division teams, some say, have an unfair advantage in that they can sometimes bring in higher-division players into their lineup, and their infrastructure, funding, and coaching setup are all DI, regardless of the fact the team in question is playing, say, in DIII.
Certainly the DIII teams of DI and Super League clubs have done quite well in recent years – the last three DIII national club champions have been 2nd sides of DI clubs.
However, banning such teams is hurtful to the players involved. Athletes who don’t make the top club squad still want to play, and want to play for a meaningful goal. Short of making lower-division clubs somehow the farm clubs of higher-division clubs (and many realize that’s not a popular option), in the end B-sides have been allowed to play in DIII leagues.
In Texas, at least, a local solution has been found to keep DIII-only clubs and DII teams of DI clubs separate. The Texas DIII competition is divided into three conferences – North, South, and B.
The South has seven teams, with Corpus Christi leading the league at present with a 4-0 record led by Anton Kindzirsky’s six tries and Carid Scovill’s 45 points. Meanwhile the North has six teams, with Stephen F. Austin (3-0, 54 points from Matt Hall and eight tries from Jordan Maddox) and Grand Prairie (3-0, with more spread-out scoring) leading.
The B Division is B teams from all the DI clubs. It’s a completely separate conference, and will provide a team to the Texas playoffs, and possibly on to the West RFU playoffs.
“We love it,” said Austin Blacks Head Coach Lachlan Ferguson. “We’ve got a really young team that is pushing our DI team. I think it’s really good to formalize the competition and give the guys something to play for. What’s really good about it is that it mirrors the DI schedule, so the entire club travels together. The Bs play first, and they feel more part of the club.”
This isn’t unique. The Mid-Atlantic has had a B-side league for years. But this is the first time that a DIII league has been made up entirely of second sides from DI clubs. Some might renew the protest that they shouldn’t be part of the playoff system – that’s perhaps a discussion for another day – but in creating this B conference, the Texas Rugby Union has made life easier and better for everyone.