BT PREMIERSHIP PREVIEW: IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT THE SIX NATIONS

THE BT PREMIERSHIP is set up nicely for a grandstand finish, with every game this penultimate weekend having real significance – so it is a bit of a shame that the excitement is going to be rather over-shadowed by all the going-ons in Rome, Cardiff and Paris.

Furthermore, the heavy involvement of players in the Under-20s Six Nations championship could have a distorting effect on some crucial matches.

“They all seem to be huge games at the moment but rounds 17 and 18 are extremely important, and with a number of important players from all teams unavailable it seems like the season needs to end before the Six Nations starts, or be put on hold and played after the Six Nations has finished. Maybe something to debate over the next few months,” says Boroughmuir head coach Peter Wright, whose team has lost three players to the under-20s programme, but are actually set to profit from the situation this week because they are up against a Currie side shorn of five front-liners.

The question of how to fit the club season around the Six Nations window is nothing new, so don’t get your hopes up that a solution which suits everyone will be uncovered any time soon.

 

THE LOWDOWN –

HERIOT’S v MELROSE

VENUE: Goldenacre @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Heriot’s: C Simpson; G Parker, R Mulveena, J Semple, R Kay; R Carmichael, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, R Nimmo, C Smith, M Maltman, J McLean, C Marshall. Subs: G Turner, S Mustard, M Hughes, A Hagart, J Rasolea.

Melrose: F Thomson; A Lockington, N Godsmark, G Taylor, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, M McAndrew; D Elkington, R Anderson, R McLeod, L Carmichael, A Bresler, J G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: C McKay, J Bhatti, R Knott, B Colvine, G Wood.

TEAM NEWS –

Heriot’s: Hooker George Turner – back from a loan spell with London Scottish – and centre Junior Rasolea have been released by Edinburgh and occupy the bench.

Melrose: An all professional engine-room, with Lewis Carmichael and Anton Bresler both being released by Edinburgh to team up in the visitors’ second-row, while Nyle Godsmark has returned from Scotland Sevens duty to take over the number thirteen jersey.

KEY BATTLE: Callum Marshall versus Iain Moody

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“The players are fully aware of the importance of the final two games of the regular season and playing the league leaders will, I hope, focus the mind. We have another full-house for lunch and the Wales versus England match to settle in front of in the bar after the match, which should mean a great atmosphere before, during and after…” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)

“Heading up to Goldenacre to face the double winning champions is always going to be a challenging fixture and with Heriot’s hitting excellent form lately they will be looking to cement their place in the play-offs as soon as possible. We have prepared well over the last couple of weeks after a small break from the league and are looking forward to putting in a performance …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)

VERDICT: Heriot’s need it more

GLASGOW HAWKS v AYR

VENUE: Old Anniesland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Hawks: J Steele; J Bulumakau, B McGroarty, D Milne, K Gossman; H Schulte, S Yacoubian; L Archer, C Fenton, G Strain, T Uanivi, A Kirkland, S Leckey, M Smith, T Spinks©. Subs: G Stewart, C Barnes, A Linton, P Kelly, A Lowry.

Ayr: G Anderson; D McCluskey, A Russell, R Curle, C Gossman; F Climo, D Armstrong; G Hunter, J Malcolm, S Longwell, R McAlipne, S Sutherland, B Macpherson, W Bordill, P McCallum©. Subs: L Anderson, A Prentice, G Henry, P Dewhirst, J Bova.

TEAM NEWS –

Hawks: Glasgow Warriors lock Tijuee Uanivi is back after a lengthy injury lay-off, joining fellow pros Matt Smith and Junior Bulumakau. Paddy Kelly, who has returned north as cover at Glasgow Warriors during the Six Nations, is on the bench. Lyle Archer makes his first start at loosehead prop in place of the injured Steven Findlay after impressing off the bench in recent outings.

Ayr: Will Bordill, Scott Sutherland and Steven Longwell have recovered from minor injuries to return to the pack where they are joined by James Malcolm, who is released by the Warriors. David Armstrong, Ross Curle, Archie Russell and Craig Gossman return to a dangerous looking backline.

KEY BATTLE: Lyle Fraser versus Steven Longwell

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Ayr have huge strength and depth throughout their squad and boast a pack where most players wouldn’t look out of place in a pro rugby environment. After our last encounter, we have some points to prove and this weekend presents the perfect opportunity to do so …” – Finlay Gillie (Hawks)

“It is set to be an exciting weekend in the BT Premiership with the result of every game having a meaningful outcome on league positions. None more so than at Anniesland where both teams will be fighting it out to try and claim a home play-off spot. Hawks are the highest point scorers in the league this season so our defence will need to be at its best …” – Calum Forrester (Ayr)

VERDICT: Ayr experience edges it

WATSONIANS v STIRLING COUNTY

VENUE: Myreside @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Watsonians: A Chalmers; K Young, S McLeod, D Innes, R Steele; E Scott, R Cullen; N Borel, S Crombie, S Ruwers, C Borthwick, C McLean, E Dodds, A Duckett, R Drummond©. Subs: D Miller, M Christie, F Morrison, E McKirdy, S McKean.

Stirling: J Hope©; S MacDonald, B Thomson, A Black, L Trotter; R Jones, N Kenatale; M MacDonald, R Kennedy, C Hutton, H Burr, A Sinclair, A Grant-Suttie, A Taylor, R Leishman. Subs: M Emmison, M Hunter, G Mountford, M Donaldson, L Bonnar.

TEAM NEWS –

Watsonians: Ewan Scott returns from injury at stand-off, allowing Andrew Chalmers to revert to his preferred position of full-back. Euan Dods is also back and joins a powerful back-row alongside Angus Duckett and Rory Drummond.

Stirling: With four players away with the Scotland Under-20s, this is a big test of strength in depth, and the availability of South African – Brandon Thomson, who arrived in the country on Sunday on a two month loan deal with Glasgow Warriors should bolster the backline. Nemia Kenatale is also released to play at scrum-half..

KEY BATTLE: Scott McLeod versus Brandon Thomson

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We know that we still need points over these last two weeks of the regular season to stay away from the relegation play-off spot so the guys are ready to give it their all against a tough Stirling County outfit …” – Marcus Di Rollo (Watsonians)

“We have had a focus on this game for the past number of weeks now, and have trained well in the build up to it since our last league outing at home to Ayr. We are under no illusions of the significance of the game, and the bearing it may have on the outcome of our final league position. Following Watsonians’ previous game against Melrose, when they scored six tries, we fully expect a similar approach in terms of running rugby from them again this weekend, and so are fully prepared to put in a defensive shift to nullify the obvious attacking threat that they possess…” – David Adamson (Stirling)

VERDICT: Continuity key for hosts

BOROUGHMUIR v CURRIE

VENUE: Meggetland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Boroughmuir: D Steele; G McConnell, A Cox, G Cannie, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw©, N Fowles; D Robertson, T King, T Gracie, M Tweddle, C Atkinson, A Mncube, M Walker, C Keddie. Subs: S Clark, P Richards, R Woodland, S Johnson, R Cairns.

Currie: H Elms; M Hooks, R Tagive, R Nelson, B Robbins; J Forbes, M O’Neil; J Cox, G Carson, A McWilliam, S Ainslie, M Vernel, R Davies, S McGinley, R Weston©. Subs: C McEvoy, R Patterson, D Marek, C Smith, R Smith.

TEAM NEWS –

Boroughmuir: Scrum-half Nathan Fowles is released by Edinburgh. Jamie Ritchie was also meant to be playing but got called back by Edinburgh when John Hardie was elevated to the national squad in Paris as injury cover for Ryan Wilson. Prop Daniel Winning, back-row Jamie Ure and centre Ronan Kerr (who is 24th man) are away with Scotland Under-20.

Currie: Five players are involved in the under-20 programme. Ratu Tagive is released by Glasgow Warriors and starts in the centre, with Matt Hooks moving out to the wing and Ruaraidh Smith dropping to the bench. In the pack, Stephen Ainslie returns from injury in the second-row, whilst John Cox comes into a reshuffled front row due to the loss of Fergus Scott.

KEY BATTLE: Chris Laidlaw versus Jamie Forbes

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We are looking forward to another local-ish derby against a tough Currie team. We have worked hard on a number of things in the last few weeks and the players know exactly how important this game is to Boroughmuir. Hopefully we will beat the weather as players and coaching staff are looking forward to getting on with things.…” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)

“Another pivotal match at both ends of the table. Boroughmuir are a relatively young squad and have been similarly affected by under-20 call-ups. However, they have a number of players who can make something happen out of nothing and I’m sure they will be buoyed by their Cup win. This is a must-win match for both sides and we would expect the standard of play to reflect that. Both teams like to throw the ball about so hopefully the weather allows for this at the weekend …” – Ben Cairns (Currie)

VERDICT: Boroughmuir edge a cracker

About David Barnes 2972 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.