MELROSE host Stirling County tomorrow afternoon in the now traditional Charity Shield, played between the winners of the league and the cup from the previous season on the final weekend before the new league campaign starts.
With hosts Melrose having won the double last year, County provide the opposition as beaten Cup finalists, and new head coach Eddie Pollock says his team welcome the opportunity to have a tilt at the club which has set the standard at the top of the club game in terms of consistency and professionalism.
“They are the team everyone will be trying to match in the coming season,” he said. “Our pre-season has been good so far with the players working extremely hard in the gym and on the training ground, but we will need to go up a gear in this first competitive fixture of the season to match a Melrose side full of young players looking to make a good impression on Rob Chrystie.”
The County squad is boosted by the addition of Fosroc Scottish Rugby Academy Stage 3 forwards, Murphy Walker and Cameron Henderson, who have both represented Scotland at age-grade level. Ally Mackie and George Arnott will also look to make an impact having joined from Dundee, while Andrew Goudie from GHA will be looking to cement a place in the starting line-up at stand-off.
Melrose will field a combination of youth and experience as they look to consolidate on last year’s achievements and then push forward towards Super 6. Rory Darge was one of the stars of Scotland’s World Rugby U20 Championship campaign despite havimg two years still to play at that age level, and he will be worth keeping an eye on at openside flanker.
Outside centre Patrick Anderson also played in the U20 World Championship, South African Michael Muelace-Julyan gets his first run out on the wing having moved north from Blackheath during the summer, and Calum Crookshanks is on the bench after returning from a spell in New Zealand.
“Stirling as always will bring a well-balanced squad that Eddie will have prepared well,” said Chrystie. “With the added incentive of silverware this is sure to be a strongly contested fixture which is ideal preparation for the Tennent’s Premiership.
“This year’s Charity Shield which is supporting the School of Hard Knocks, and is sure to be a cracker. With a full day planned at the club of games and entertainment it is sure to bring in a large crowd.
Melrose (v Stirling County at The Greenyards, Saturday, 3.00pm): F Thomson; G Wood, P Anderson, T Klein, M Muelace-Julyan; C Jackson, M McAndrew; G Shiels, R Anderson, R McLeod, A Welsh, A Runciman, R Knott, R Darge, G Runciman©. Substitutes: R Ferguson, C Crookshank, I Moody, S Hutchison D Colvine.
Stirling County: J Hope©; M Lamb, E Macgarvie, G Hughes, C Dineen; A Goudie, P Jericevich; R Chies, R Kennedy, M Walker, J Pow, S Yarrow, H Burr, S McDonald, A Mackie. Subs: B Gilchrist, G Holborn, C Henderson, G Arnott, C Robertson.
- School of Hard Knocks [SoHK] uses sport – usually rugby – to tackle issues surrounding unemployment, crime and health. The concept was formulated by Ken Cowen in 2007, who persuaded Sky Sports to run several television series’ following former internationalists Scott Quinnell and Will Greenwood as they delivered rugby coaching to unemployed people in various parts of the country as a starting block to a wide-reaching programme aimed at helping participants take the steps necessary to return to the world of work.