Under normal circumstances a day in Richmond, a morning at Kew Gardens, lunch by the river, and a rugby match at any one of the area’s handful of welcoming clubs is an exceedingly pleasant way to pass time.
However, last Saturday normal circumstances clearly did not prevail and due to the early kick-off between London Scottish and Moseley, Kew was a mere blur in the car window, lunch was at 11.30am and the low-quality rugby match was over by 2pm.
The experience was shared by what was comfortably the Exiles’ lowest crowd of the season and one couldn’t help but think this wasn’t how the shiny new RFU Championship was meant to look when the ‘marketing experts’ dreamt it up four years ago.
It was a wretched occasion made only more moribund by the presence of a larger, brighter, better spectacle a couple of miles down the road as England battled manfully with South Africa.
And, of course, therein lies the story. This was an international weekend and any rugby follower in the Richmond area was always going to be drawn to the bright light rather than the fizzling candle. That meant the Championship sideshow had British & Irish Cup written all over it.
Unfortunately, that ship had already sailed. Moseley had already visited – and won at – the Richmond Athletic Ground in what was an incongruously thrilling Pool Six encounter, so stark in contrast to last weekend’s fare.
How Moseley must wish they could swap those outcomes because it’s barely believable that only six weeks separated the matches and while Scottish don’t look any better, Moseley now appear short of options and confidence.
I digress, what is at issue here is the structure of the second-tier season, a 12-team league and an expanded B&I Cup competition, the timings of which match the Premiership and Amlin Cup tournaments.
At the start of the season I thought that was a sound starting point, short of a 16-team Championship and straight knockout cup – a ship which was sunk a decade ago, but on the evidence of last Saturday it might be time to stage four B&I Cup fixtures on the same weekend as the autumn internationals.
Those matches attract only the most committed club supporters and are therefore less vulnerable to the competing allure of Test rugby.
They are less attractive than league matches and when there’s only 11 of these at home each season they should be given every chance to attract paying customers and prioritised accordingly.
Moseley have been relatively fortunate not to have been at home during the last three internationals but Scottish suffered on Saturday with a gate that was far below the corresponding fixture last term. Time for a rethink.