2022-23 Premiership Season Preview

The Offside Line gives its verdict on how all 10 teams are shaping up ahead of Saturday's kick-off

The 2022-23 Premiership season kicks-off on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
The 2022-23 Premiership season kicks-off on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE Premiership returns this weekend so here is The Offside Line’s insight into how the teams are shaping up –

 

Currie Chieftains

Head Coach: Mark Cairns (Forwards, Line-out, Contact and Defence)

Assistant Coaches: Ally Donaldson (Backs and Attack), Alastair Hamilton (Scrum) and Fergus Scott (Throwing and 2nd XV).

Captain: Graeme Carson

Vice-Captains: Rhys Davies and Jamie Forbes

New Faces – 

  • Ewan Stewart is is big physical forward who can play in the second or back-row. He appeared for the Chieftains as a draft player from Boroughmuir Bears last season and has now returned on a full-time basis.
  • Will Inglis has also made the switch from Boroughmuir Bears. He is a tall and physical second-row with good hands too.
  • Winger Kody McGovern offers speed, strength and agility, as well as the experience of playing for Bay of Plenty, and Ayrshire Bulls and Watsonians at Super6 level.

Fond Farewells –

  • Flanker Fergus Scott has given a huge amount to the club over the years as Development Officer and 1st team captain. He finishes his playing career on a high, being named last season’s player of the year, and now takes up a coaching role to lead an A Team that managed to secure a semi-final play-off spot last year.
  • Second-row Hamish Ferguson‘s hard work last season earned him a step up to Super6 rugby with Stirling County.
  • Centre/scrum-half Ryan Southern, who was a stand out players last year, has also moved to Stirling Wolves to play Super6.

Young Gun: Ally McCallum played the majority of his rugby in the As last year as a back-row or second-row, having come through the club’s youth system. “He has been impressing at age-grade regional level and has worked extremely hard both on and off the field, hooking up with Luke Crosbie in the gym,” said head coach Mark Cairns. “He is looking physically ready for a step up into the 1st team this year and has a very bright future.”

Key Man: Rhys Davies was the clubs Players’ Player of the Season last year and has now stepped up into a formal leadership position as vice-captain. :He has always been hard working and explosive but has added to this with by developing his game understanding and skill-set,” said Cairns.

Head Coach Comment: “We have retained much of our team from last year’s successful Premiership season, which is a credit to the club, having had 11 players involved in the Super6 Sprint series. We have not actively recruited but I am really pleased with the number of players choosing to play their rugby at Currie this year. This is highlighted by us getting three teams out on Saturday and taking over 50 players to play Sedgley Tigers in Manchester last weekend. We used a total of 47 players in our 1st XV last season and this strength in depth is likely to play an important part in our success this year.”

Last Season: 1st at end of regular season then lost play-off final to Marr

This Season’s Prediction: Ready and able to prove a point after last season’s near miss.


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Edinburgh Accies

Edinburgh Academicals

Head Coach: Iain Berthinussen (Defence)

Assistant Coaches: Chris Martin (Attack) and Ross Young (Forwards)

Captain: Jamie Loomes

Vice-Captains: Ruari Campbell and Neil Armstrong

New Faces – 

  • Back-row Tom Drennan returns to Raeburn Place after spells with Boroughmuir and Boroughmuir Bears bringing some valuable experience to the squad.
  • Winger Kerr Gossman joins Glasgow Hawks having relocated to Edinburgh and is another experienced campaigner who has already made an impact with his enthusiasm during pre-season.
  • Lewis Wells is another winger who makes the step up from Linlithgow through the connection with Douglas Thomson. He has slipped under the age-grade radar but has plenty raw potential in terms of size, speed and power.

Fond Farewells –

  • Winger Mark Sinclair left after last season’s play-off semi-final defeat to Currie Chieftains to take up the role of Heriots Super6 S&C coach.
  • Hamish Janes has relocated to Surrey due to work having made an immediate impact on the wing last season when he made the switch from back-rower to winger.
  • Flanker Sean Hegarty has taken an opportunity to play for Hong Kong Scottish through ex player and coach Alex Allan.

Young Gun: Second-row Euan McVie has come through the BATs Youth Rugby programme. The son of ex club player and coach Malcy, he is an exciting player who played Scotland under-18s at the end of last season and is hungry to learn.  “We have been really pleased with how he has stepped up to senior rugby during pre-season and we look forward to seeing him grow both on and off the field,” said head coach Iain Berthinussen.

Key Man: Ruari Campbell offers a real point of difference. Not your stereo typical No 8, speed and attacking space are his weapons.  “He matured well last year in his leadership role and continues as vice-captain this season, an integral part of the club,” said Berthinussen.

Head Coach Comment: “Last season we surprised ourselves with where we finished and the challenge for us this season is to be in the hunt for the play-offs again. Teams will be more aware of Accies and what they bring to the Premiership, so we need to be able to handle that pressure as well as continue to grow as a team.  The players have been fantastic during pre-season and with the majority of last season’s squad having returned alongside over 20 new players coming in, it is an exciting place to be.”

Last Season: 4th at end of regular season then lost play-off semi-final to Currie Chieftains

This Season’s Prediction: Should make the play-offs again – then anything could happen.


GHA

Head Coach: Trevor Carmichael (Forwards)

Assistant Coaches: Calum Forrester (Defence), Andrew Gillman (Attack), Jamie McCarthy (Line-out) and Iain Kennedy (Specialist Coach).

Captain: Dario Ewing

New Faces – 

  • Amena Caqusau is a winger who played at Queen Victoria School and Scotland U18 last season. He is a very strong and elusive runner with pace.
  • Aminio Bogidrau is also from Queen Victoria School and can play 10 and 12, with a great attacking skillset and composure on the ball.
  • Theo McKenna plays back-row and was St. Aloysius’ College 1XV Captain last year, he is also a member of the SRU FOSROC Academy.

Fond Farewells –

  • Utility-back Adam Scott has moved on to play for Boroughmuir Bears Super6 team.
  • Scotland Under-20s centre Andy Stirrat has picked up a Stage 3 academy contract and is now playing for Ayrshire Bulls in Super6.
  • Scotland Under-20s hooker Gregor Hiddleston has also moved on to Super6 with Stirling Wolves.

Young Gun: Centre Johnny Ventisei played Scotland Under-18’s last season and is this year’s 1st XV Captain at St. Aloysius College. He has chosen to move up to senior rugby early in his career.

Key Man: Stand-off Andrew Goudie brings a lot of experience and leadership to the squad after playing at Super6 with Stirling for the last two seasons.

Head Coach Comment: “This is our third season in the Premiership and we are again looking to improve on our performances and finishing position overall. We have a young, exciting squad with the addition of some experienced players that gives us a great mix and options. The boys have worked hard over pre-season and are hungry to get the season going so that they can achieve our outlined goals for the season.”

Last Season: 6th

This Season’s Prediction: Top half needs to be the target.


Glasgow Hawks

Head Coach: Andy Hill (Attack and Defence)

Assistant Coaches: Thomas Davidson (Backs and Specialist Skills), Brendan McGroarty (Backs Defence and Specialist Skills) and Gary Strain (Forwards and Contact Area)

Captain: Stephen Leckey

Vice-Captains: Paul Cairncross and Callum Harrison

New Faces – 

  • Oscar Baird is an ex-Highland player who arrived at the club via Guernsey. “The dynamic back row has a big engine and a frame that will make him hard to stop,” explained head coach Andy Hill.
  • Eric Davey follows in the footsteps of a number of Strathallan ex-pupils by joining Hawks. He was unfortunate to miss out on Scotland under-18’s last season due to injury but has already impressed in pre-season and will push hard for the starting No 9 jersey.
  • Second-rom Calum Ferrie is in familiar surroundings at Balgray having come through Kelvinside Academy and trained with Hawks on and off since school.

Fond Farewells –

  • Second-row Sione Halafihi has decided to hang up his boots to spend more time with his family. A fan favourite due to the way he throws himself into tackles he has been known as the ‘Tongan Torpedo’. “”Many of the opposition will be glad to see the back of him,” acknowledged Hill.
  • Stand-off Liam Brims has been our regular at No 10 since the start of the new Premiership, emerging as a leader and driver of standards throughout the squad. Signed to Stirling for the Super6 Sprint at the tail-end of last season, he has yet to make his competitive debut due to a serious injury.
  • Back-rower Lewis McNamara was Hawks’ Players’ Player of the Season last year as well as top try scorer, earning him a  Super6 contract with the Ayrshire Bulls. The only player in our squad to have played in every game last season, his eye for a gap and work rate will be sorely missed.

Young Gun: Glasgow Academy school leaver Ruaraidh Hart (second-row) was part of the Scotland Under-18s in April. “He comes with a glowing report from the Academy,” said Hill. “A smart lad, studying to be a doctor, he picks up things quickly and has a great work ethic on and off the field. We expect him to get better with each game he plays.”

Key Man: “Impossible to name one,” insisted Hill. “Gary Strain provides the platform, Brendan McGroarty the go-forward and Stephen Leckey makes every player one percent better.”

Head Coach Comment: “Losing seven players to Super6 alongside another half dozen 1st XV regulars doesn’t make the job easy. However, with over 30 new faces all pushing for a spot in the starting XV is exciting. Not being able to compete in the top 2nd XV league was disappointing last season, so winning promotion was crucial to player development and we hope to push to be in the play-off final at 1st XV level come the end of the season. It was disheartening that the 1st XV fell away after Christmas in the race for the top four. Even with so many new faces that will remain the aim as we believe on our day we can beat anyone.”

Last Season: 5th

This Season’s Prediction: Race for the play-offs is going to be an endurance contest so strength in depth could be an issue.



Hawick

Head Coach: Matty Douglas (Backs and Defence)

Assistant Coaches: Lewis Bertram (Forwards, Breakdown and Set-Piece) and Graham Hogg (Backs, Attack and Skills)

Captain: Matty Carryer

Vice-Captains: Shawn Muir and Andrew Mitchell

New Faces – 

  • Back-three man Lewis Ferguson returns after a few seasons away from the game, adding experience to the back-line. He will hope to recapture some of his form from the George Graham era.
  • Tight-head prop Nicky Little is another experienced returner after a break from the game, he will add valuable experience and depth to the front-row.
  • Abrasive back-five forward Dalton Redpath returns to Mansfield after a successful stint in Super6 with the Southern Knights.

Fond Farewells –

  • Teenage hooker Corey Tait made a big impact in his debut season in senior rugby before moving to Boroughmuir Bears for the Super6 Sprint Series before the summer, quickly proving himself at that level as well. A front-runner to feature for Scotland Under-20s during the season ahead.
  • Veteran second-row Rory Smith, who was unsung hero in the boiler-house last season, has moved to Dubai with his partner.

Young Gun: Eight players have moved up from under-18 level. Scrum-half Hector Patterson, who played for Jed Thistle before making the switch to Mansfield, was part of the Scotland under-18s squad in the recent Six Nations round-robin tournament. “He has shown he as a good skill set and understanding of the game and we are looking forward to seeing how he progresses this season working with Graham Hogg to improve his game,” said head coach Matty Douglas.

Key Man: Stand-off Kirk Ford had a big 2021-22 season and will be a key man in how the team plays this coming season.

Head Coach Comment: “The players have worked very hard in pre season and there is lots of competition for places. We are happy with the players who have been added to the squad along with the number of players we have kept from last season, with only two players moving on. Off the field we have a new look coaching team which we are very excited about. We are also going into the season with a new director of rugby John Hogg, so we know he will bring a wealth of experience to the role. We are looking to go one better than last year, and it doesn’t get much tougher than starting the season with a Border derby against Selkirk, but it’s a game we are looking forward to.”

Last Season: 3rd at end of regular season then lost play-off semi-final to Marr

This Season’s Prediction: Ready to push all the way if they can generate some momentum on the road.


Heriot’s Blues

Head Coach: Phil Smith (Attack)

Assistant Coaches: Jim Parker (Forwards) and OJ Brown (Backs)

Captain: Callum Bell

New Faces – 

  • Sam Wallace, who has arrived from Dollar Academy, is a ball of energy at openside flanker.
  • Hooker Elliot Young, recently of Stewart’s Melville College. is “an old man in 18-year-old rugby boots.” according to cryptic head coach Phil Smith.

Fond Farewells –

  • Lewis Govenlock, Callum Anderson, Rory Steele and Sean Johnston have all moved up to Super6 after being massively influential last season.

Young Gun: Guy Kirkpatrick, out of George Heriot’s School, is an exciting young stand off with skills to burn.

Key Man: Loose-head prop Angus Munro was the cornerstone of the National One winning pack last season and Phil Smith believes that he will soon challenge for Super6 if he continues improving at his current rate.

Head Coach Comment: “Our hope is that we are able to compete in what is obviously a hugely competitive league.”

Last Season: Promoted from National One

This Season’s Prediction: Consolidation is the goal.



Jed-Forest

Head Coach: Andy Brown

Assistant Coaches: David Grieve (Forwards), Mark Lee (Backs) and Neil Cook (Line-out and Scrum)

Captain: Clark Skeldon

New Faces – 

  • No8 Mathew Atkinson
  • Centre Ricardo Ferreira
  • Stand-0ff Lewis Walker

Fond Farewells –

  • None

Young Gun: The diminutive Lewis Elder proved his mettle when bringing down rampaging giant Cairn Ramsay during his debut last season and the winger will look to kick-on during the coming campaign.

Key Man: New boy Lewis Walker arrives at Riverside having been named 2021 Western Australia Premier Grade ‘Best Back’ whilst playing Wests Scarborough, and he will be expected to unleash some young and not so young talent in Jed’s talented backline.

Head Coach Comment: “Looking forward to coaching Jed-Forest in the Premiership.”

Last Season: 8th

This Season’s Prediction: Should have enough firepower to stay above the drop zone.


Marr

Head Coach: Craig Redpath

Assistant Coaches: Kenny Diffenthal (Backs and Attack) and Stephen Adair (Forwards and Defence)

Co-Captains: Colin Sturgeon and Conor Bickerstaff

Vice-Captain: Craig Miller

New Faces – 

  • Back-five forward Cameron Young has joined us from Ayr RFC and will increase the line-out options in the match day squad.
  • Back-row Callum Folan has been recruited from Cartha QP and his energy in contact could be a big weapon in terms of securing fast ball on Marr’s possession and turnovers off opposition possession.
  • Hooker Struan Reekie has just left Strathallan School and has impressed in training so expected to challenge for place in the 1st XV.

Fond Farewells –

  • Wing/centre Jamie Shedden has signed for Ayrshire Bulls in Super6 after an outstanding 2021-22 season and his ability to break through opposition defences will be missed.
  • Tighthead prop William Farquhar has also moved on to Ayrshire Bulls taking with him some serious scrummaging ability and a bags of character.
  • Loosehead prop Brandon Sweet has switched to Boroughmuir Bears after an excellent second half to last season with Marr. “His strength in the scrum will be missed and his carries around the ruck area was an area he developed last season,” said head coach Craig Redpath.

Young Gun: Andrew Ramage impressed in the sevens squad in May, and has developed as a player over last couple of months since leaving Marr College, so is expected to challenge for a place in the centre or on the wing.

Key Man: Scrum-half Grant Baird returned to the side for the last few games of last season and excellent pass helped to improve the speed we played the game at. “He is extremely competitive and ensures that everyone around him knows what he wants and how we want to be playing the game,” said Redpath. “He played a big part in the play-offs last season on the way to the title.”

Head Coach Comment: “After an excellent end to last season where we peaked at the right time to win the title, this season will be extremely tough as we know everyone will be desperate to beat us. With a few personal changes we know the challenge we face, and the aim again will be a top four finish to reach the play-offs.”

Last Season: 2nd at end of regular season before beating Currie Chieftains in Premiership Grand Final

This Season’s Prediction: Will be there or thereabouts once again.


Musselburgh

Head Coach: Derek O’Riordan (Defence and Forwards)

Assistant Coaches: Andrew Clarke (Backs and Attack), Callum Gauld (Skills and Kick Transition), Craig Owenson and Colin Arthur (Scrum) and Michael Maltman (Contact Area)

Captain: Danny Owenson

Vice-Captains: Rory Watt and Colin Arthur

New Faces – 

  • Hooker Finn Duraj joins us from Loretto School and the Borders Academy on the back of a summer with Boroughmuir Bears in Super6.  A young enthusiastic player with a lot to offer around the park on both sides of the ball.
  • Second-row Lochie Milne is another young player who joins from Gala and the Borders Academy, who will help add ballast to the scrum. “Lochie’s physicality on the attacking side of the ball will add value to our attack also,” said head c coach Derek O’Riordan.
  • Fionnalagh Call is a scrum-half who is untested at this level having made the switch to Stoneyhill with O’Riordan from Murrayfield Wanderers. “His tenacity and eye for a gap should add to our short game and he provides healthy competition to Danny Owenson at No 9 also,” said O’Riordan.

Fond Farewells –

  • Prolific try-scoring winger Gregor Tait is off to New Zealand for a couple of years as is second-row Cameron Pryde in October.

Young Gun:Fin Thomson is beginning to mature as an inside back – if he keeps improving the way he has in pre-season then he could be very important to how we run our attack this season,” said O’Riordan.

Key Man:Sandy Watt has been impressive in pre-season both in training and in games,” added O’Riordan. “He has the ability to light up our attack and create opportunities for us on the edges.”

Head Coach Comment: “Hope is perhaps the wrong word and ‘what’s the focus’ is perhaps more appropriate.  We have been honest with ourselves and the players in recognising that we are a Premiership team by default via a restructure (in 2018-19) and there are areas of our game that hadn’t been developed to a standard which would allow us to compete for and in the top four. Our focus for this season is to develop these physical, technical, tactical and psychological skills to improve our competitiveness and build a belief that we can push on.  What we hope overall” is that we begin to build the foundations this season for the most successful period in the club’s history in the longer term.”

Last Season: 7th

This Season’s Prediction: A fight for survival.


Selkirk

Head Coach: Scott Wight (Attack)

Assistant Coaches: Darren Hogan (Forwards and Contact), Michael Jaffray (Defence), James Head (Line-out) and Darren Clapperton (Strength and Conditioning)

Co-Captains: Luke Pettie and Aaron McColm

New Faces –

  • Initially from Mull, utility-back Ciaran Whyte is an excellent ball-player who has loads of experience having previously played for Boroughmuir, Ampthill and Southern Knights, as well as Selkirk at the start of his senior career.
  • Winger Henry Clarkson is a former Scotland international triple-jumper who had bags of energy and is an elusive runner.
  • Second-row James Head is a former Melrose and Southern Knights stalwart who will add bucketload of experience and physicality to the squad.

Fond Farewells –

  • Former captain Ewan McDougall has retired and the former Scotland Club XV No 8 will be a big miss.
  • Centre Ben Pickles provided x-factor to the backline last season but is now testing himself at Super6 level with Southern Knights.

Young Gun: Flanker Monroe Job, stepping up from the Youth Club, is a huge talent who works extremely hard and is determined to make his mark in the senior game,

Key Man: Back-row Ryan Cottrell, who missed most of last season through injury, is a big talent with ball in hand.

Head Coach Comment: “Pre-season has gone very well and we’re in a good place to compete. There is not many harder places in the league than Hawick to kick-off the campaign but it will show us exactly where we are as a group in week one!”

Last Season: 9th

This Season’s Prediction: Ready to progress.


Preview: Youth Conferences kick-off this weekend

About David Barnes 3192 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

11 Comments

  1. Great preview TOL. Thanks.

    Fergus Scott will be a big loss to Currie, but Stewart and Inglis is some 2nd row!

    It will be competitive this season, with quite a lot of unknowns – exciting crop of under 18s stepping up, how will theh far? loss of a fair number of players to super 6, how will that impact teams? return of a few experienced players from super 6, what does that do?

    I fancy Hawick to go one step further than last season and make the play off final

  2. Toss up between Hawick and Marr for the title. Hawick have recruited well so I tip them to have a great season.

  3. Great to see the club season get under way. Good luck to all the Border teams taking part and hopefully some more Southern Knights players will come and join proper Border clubs.

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