2021/22 URC fixtures announced!
Tournament organisers today confirmed Edinburgh Rugby will begin their 2021/22 United Rugby Championship campaign against Scarlets at Edinburgh Rugby Stadium (ERS) on Saturday 25 September (kick-off 5.15pm)
The homecoming clash at the ERS will give supporters the opportunity to pack out the new purpose-built stadium in what will be a celebratory fixture to kick-start the new campaign.
The capital club’s supporters can look forward to a run of mouth-watering home fixtures at the ERS with dates and kick-off times confirmed up until Round 10.
The best way to watch Edinburgh Rugby in 2021/22 is by securing a Season Ticket Membership. Don’t miss out on the inaugural season of the United Rugby Championship and join the homecoming at the ERS.
Match tickets for the first three round will go on sale to Castle Club and Founders Club members this Monday (30 August), followed by the general sale one week today (Friday 3 September).
Head Coach Mike Blair’s squad will face South African giants DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls on back-to-back Saturday evenings in the capital – Saturdays 9 and 16 October, both 5.15pm kick-offs – in the first-ever meetings with the URC newcomers.
A home Friday night clash against Conference rivals Benetton follows on 3 December (kick-off 7.35pm), before supporters can gear up for the annual 1872 Cup derbies that will see Edinburgh Rugby host their west coast rivals in the second-leg of the intercity clash on Sunday 2 January (kick-off 2pm).
The ERS will host home match-ups against Cardiff Rugby (w/o 8 January) and Connacht (w/o 5 March) in early 2022, before the capital side head to South Africa in March to face the Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions in a two-week tour.
Blair’s side will then close out the regular season in April with back-to-back home fixtures at the ERS against Conference rivals Zebre (w/o 23 April) and Irish foes Ulster (w/o 30 April).
Edinburgh Rugby Head Coach, Mike Blair, said: “First up it’s great that we’re playing a home game to start the United Rugby Championship.
“We’ve got a brand-new stadium, so hopefully we’re going to get a really big, noisy crowd in there to get behind the boys. It’ll be good to start with a home game, against a good opponent like the Scarlets, and try and kick-off the campaign well.
“The prospect of facing the Stormers and Bulls at the ERS on back-to-back weekends is also really exciting for both the club and our supporters.
“It’s two new teams and they’ll bring a different brand of rugby. There’ll be players we don’t know so well, and we’ll have to do our homework on them.
“But to get them back-to-back is brilliant and it’ll be an opportunity for the crowd to see some new players, but also for us to hopefully entertain.
“We’re now really starting to build momentum for the that first home clash. Preparations having been going really well for the new season and we can’t wait to kick-off the URC in our new home with the backing of our supporters.”
Still have questions around the 2021/22 fixtures? Check out the URC fixtures FAQs below.
URC FIXTURES FAQs:
In future seasons when can fans expect to see fixtures released?
Prior to the pandemic the goal was to publish fixtures six to eight weeks ahead of the season starting. This will remain the ambition for each season of the United Rugby Championship once travel restrictions related to Covid-19 have less of an impact.
What impact did the travel restrictions cause to the planning for this season?
The URC’s Medical Advisory Group regularly updates our tournament team on the policies and requirements of each territory with regards to differing conditions on travel and any available dispensations. The fluid nature of the pandemic means that any fixture list published earlier than this point would have had to be completely entirely rewritten.
Why would a fixture list need to be rewritten?
Such is the complexity of the scheduling and all of the various fixture rules and TV requirements in place, no one fixture can be switched without a knock-on effect on multiple rounds.
Could you be more specific about fixture rules and TV requirements?
Rules related to fixtures include ensuring that tours to South Africa from teams visiting from the north play two games in succession – meaning they cannot be scheduled across breaks in calendar. For example, a team cannot be scheduled to play in South Africa in the final round before the November Internationals as it would require a second trip to complete their two-game tour a month later.
Likewise, the preference for South African teams is to play three-week tours in Europe (this season it will be in four-week blocks to begin) so that the need for long-haul travel is reduced.
With seven different broadcasters operating across our five territories mixed across Free to Air and Pay TV, it is a demanding process to schedule eight games per weekend that works with available time slots and the preferences of host broadcasters.
What other factors have an impact on scheduling of rounds or kick-off times?
Clubs may have restrictions around venue availability for a number of reasons at certain times of the year. Teams that share grounds with football or other sports teams may have to avoid certain weekends or may only have one day in a weekend with access to the stadium.
Additionally, broadcast agreements generally prevent more than two games being scheduled in any one time slot to allow for live coverage in multiple territories or because a broadcaster’s rights may extend to a specific time slot.
FTA broadcasters in Ireland and Wales cannot show games at the same time in territory, so if RTÉ show a game at 19:35 on a Friday then TG4 cannot show a game involving an Irish team in the same slot. That principal also applies to S4C and BBC Wales on games involving Welsh teams.
Turnaround times are also a big factor in ensuring teams have enough time to recover and prepare for their next fixture and six-day turnarounds are the shortest that generally occur. Five-day turnarounds on fixtures are avoided unless absolutely necessary and agreed by the clubs involved. This list is not exhaustive, but should provide some clarity on the various factors at play when it comes to scheduling.
Can you explain the process of how the fixtures are created in the first place?
Ahead of creating the first draft, the tournament team will have identified available weekends and assigned rounds that avoid conflicts with international weekends. Clubs submit information related to any particular restrictions and travel to and from South Africa is also considered in terms of identifying blocks where tours are possible.
All of this and the sequencing of derby games over the Christmas and New Year period or specific events such as Judgement Day are also taken into account. Additionally, due to broadcast agreements certain fixtures need to occur in separate rounds and when all factors have been considered they are formulated into rules.
These rules are used by a software system that may deliver multiple versions of the fixture list until it has met all of the necessary requirements. This fixture list is then presented to our Sports & Regulatory Committee and depending on the review it may have to be rewritten based upon feedback from clubs to create more balance. Once a final version of the fixtures are agreed they are shared with our broadcast partners to identify kick-off times.
A meeting takes place to juggle all of the preferences of host broadcasters and accommodate rights holders in other territories. Once this has been finalised, the schedule is shared with clubs so they may arrange their logistics for travel. Following that the fixtures are then made available to publish.
The kick-off times only go as far as Round 10, when will Rounds 11 to 18 be confirmed?
To ensure URC is operating to the latest guidance of our Medical Advisory Committee, a further scheduling meeting with broadcasters will occur in the next six to eight weeks to assign kick-off times for games being played in Rounds 11 to 18.
Will fixtures always be announced in two blocks in future?
The preference of URC and its clubs is to deliver a full schedule with kick-off times for all 18 rounds ahead of the season. This year it was felt prudent to be mindful of the travel restrictions and to plan ahead for the first 10 rounds initially.
The URC has promised to avoid international weekends, will that always be the case?
In the early stages of planning for the 2021/22 season, Round 6 was originally scheduled to take place the weekend of October 29, however, when international fixtures were then scheduled for this weekend Round 6 was moved to the final weekend in November.