Inter-District Championship round two: match-day squads are freshened up

It will be do or die time at Raeburn Place as Edinburgh and holders Caledonia Reds aim to bounce back from opening weekend defeats

Glasgow & The West will look to build on last weekend's win over champions Caledonia Reds when they head to Poynder Park to take on The South. Image: Colin Robinson
Glasgow & The West will look to build on last weekend's win over champions Caledonia Reds when they head to Poynder Park to take on The South. Image: Colin Robinson

IT is do or die for both Edinburgh District and the defending Champions Caledonia Reds this weekend after narrow losses in round one left both sides needing a victory in Saturday’s Raeburn Place clash to stay alive in this year’s Inter-District Championship. 

As President of host club  Edinburgh Accies, Simon Burns a former Caledonia Reds captain, is hoping for a big crowd and an enjoyable afternoon for all involved, but he makes no bones about the fact that he is rooting for the visitors.

“It was a competition I absolutely loved playing in back in my more youthful days and it goes without saying that I shall be supporting the visiting team on this occasion,” said the former North and Midlands captain, who is hosting reunion for the Caledonia Reds side which won the first Inter-District Championship of the professional era in 1995-96 (before the shift towards full-time pro teams).

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There will be several intra-club match-ups in this match, with Max Wallace starting at outside-centre for the Reds, while his Accies team-mates Jamie Sole, Struan Whittaker, Cal Davies, Ross Dunbar, Neil Armstrong and Robbie Kent are all in the Edinburgh XV.

Currie Chieftains and Musselburgh are also represented in both squads, while there is actually more Heriot’s players in the Reds team (Struan Cessford, Malachy Keough and Alistair Johnstone) than there are in the Edinburgh team (Rory Kirkpatrick).

“Selection has been incredibly tough and we have had some very tight calls to make,” said Edinburgh head coach Bob McKillop.” Whilst our three-quarter line remains unchanged from last week, we have brought in the experience of Gregor Christie at scrum-half, while Paddy Ritchie will come off the bench. Scott Clark of Preston Lodge will start again at stand-off and is a great advert for this competition.

“In the pack, two of our strong performers from last week, Callum Crookshanks and Rhys Davies, are unavailable due to prior commitments, but we are lucky to have the very experienced Graeme Carson and Ali Bain to take their places. Both performed well off the bench last week.

“Jake Mills will miss this week out due to an injury, but we are hopeful he will be back in contention for the final game. He is replaced by Struan Whittaker, who was another key individual in our fight back in the final quarter against the South.
On the bench, Danny Owenson, Stu Allison, Arran Hain and Josh Minty are all set to make their Edinburgh debuts for this season.

“This week we have focused on building a secure foundation to give us more opportunity to play the way we want to play.  I know Colin Sangster and his coaches will also ensure his team play an attractive style of rugby. So if the weather holds it could be a great game, with two teams packed full of quality players, who want to play, and with hopefully a large, and probably well-oiled, support for both sides.”

There are three changes to the Caledonia Reds starting line-up this week. Bryce Robertson has been selected at hooker ahead of Fraser Allan, who drops out of the squad; Connor Faulds comes in at full-back with Adriu Muritoki moving to the wing and Ryan Flett missing out of the squad; while DJ Innes returns from injury to start at 12 with Murray Mitchell dropping to the bench. Amongst the replacements, Ross Brown is in for Lewis Skinner who is away this week, Rory Brown replaces Gordon Gregor who picked up a head knock last week, and Fionnlagh Call is the replacement scrum half rotating in for James Imrie.

“Following on from last weeks narrow loss to Glasgow, the players are excited to take on Edinburgh this weekend,” said Sangster. “Last week we lost a close game with Glasgow, which could have gone either way and given the closeness of Edinburgh’s first game, it’s clear that these are games of fine margins.

“Indeed, Edinburgh were unlucky not to get the win, after playing some great rugby against a strong South team, especially in the first half. So we need to raise our game up a notch or two and I have no doubt that our squad will rise to the challenge. Last week the lads gave their all, but this week need to improve on certain aspects of our game to give us the opportunity to pick up the win.”

Edinburgh (versus Caledonia Reds @ Raeburn Place on Saturday 30th March, kick off 3pm): Charlie Brett © (Currie Chieftains); Rory Hinghaugh (Musselburgh), Robbie Kent (Edinburgh Accies), Neil Armstrong (Edinburgh Accies), Ryan Daley (Currie Chieftains); Scott Clark (Preston Lodge), Gregor Christie (Currrie Chieftains); Ross Dunbar (Edinburgh Accies), Cal Davies (Edinburgh Accies), Graeme Carson (Currie Chieftains), Struan Whittaker (Edinburgh Accies), Michael Badenhorst (Musselburgh), Ali Bain (Currie Chieftains), Rory Kirkpatrick (Heriot’s Blues), Jamie Sole (Edinburgh Accies). Replacements: Ryan Stewart (Currie Chieftains), Cole Imrie (Edinburgh Accies), Arran Hain (Edinburgh Accies), Josh Minty (Watsonians), Stuart Allison (Watsonians), Patrick Ritchie (Edinburgh Accies), Danny Owenson (Musselburgh), Rory Watt (Musselburgh).

Caledonia Reds: Connor Faulds (Falkirk); Adriu Muritoki (Highland), Max Wallace (Edinburgh Accies/Deeside), DJ Innes (Currie Chieftains/Grangemouuth), Magnus Henry (Highland); Callum Beckett (Currie Chieftains/Stirling County), Harry Russell © (Falkirk);  Stephen Murray (Highland), Bryce Robertson (Watsonians/Stirling County), Struan Cessford (Heriot’s/Dundee), Connor McFarlane (Aberdeenshire), Malachy Keough (Heriot’s/High School of Dundee), Calum Macpherson (Highland), Sam Cardosi (Currie Chieftains/Dundee), Alistair Johnstone (Heriot’s/Dollar Academy). Replacements: Scott Rendall (Orkney), Glen Brough (Gala/Orkney), Ross Brown (Musselburgh/Ellon), Struan Robertson (Gordonians/Strathallan/Kirkcaldy), Rory Brown (Kirkcaldy), Fionnlagh Call (Musselburgh/Highland), Glen Faulds (Falkirk), Murray Mitchell (Strathmore).



Meanwhile, the South have named seven Hawick forwards in their starting pack as they look to make it two from two in the championship when hosting Glasgow & The West at Poynder Park, with host club Kelso providing the other forward in the imposing shape of second-row Keith Melbourne, as well as four of the starting backs plus three replacements.

“This week we have rewarded boys for the impact the bench made last week and also a couple players miss out due to injury and unavailability,” explained head coach Matty Douglas.Andrew Mitchell has a lower back injury but hoping to be back next week, Aaron McColm has an ankle injury and while we are unsure how bad this is we again hope it improves for next week, and Russell Anderson is unavailable so the versatile Ross Graham covers hooker from the bench.

“The build-up to Saturday has been great to be involved in,” Douglas added. “When you are dealing with quality players it makes our job as coaches a lot easier as they know exactly what this weekend means for us as a squad and also for the region.

“I’ve been impressed with how the players have reacted to last weekend’s performance by trying to improve on the little things we didn’t quite get right. For me, the character shown to get back into the game and win it shows how much the South means to this group. The focus has been on how good we were in the second half against Edinburgh and we’ve carried that on in the sessions this week. I can’t fault the work the players and backroom staff have been putting in to try and ensure we have a successful championship.

“Glasgow are a very good side and have a number of players who can change a game at anytime. We will need to be defensively bang on but also take our opportunities because at this level you don’t get too many.”

Glasgow & West head coach Kenny Diffenthal has also tinkered with his pack for this top of the table clash.

“Facing a big pack we have rotated our starting props, bringing in Michael Fox and Brandon Sweet to give us a bit more bulk, while Tom Martin  earns a start at hooker after a very good shift from the bench last week,” Diffenthal said.  “A couple of players are unavailable through minor niggles of other reasons, They should be available next week but their absence gives opportunities in the starting line-up for several players, in particular Torquil MacLeod and Charlie Lonergran at full-back and outside-centre, respectively.

“Having not played The South [since the reprisal of the Inter-District Championship], we are in uncharted territory, but we know from last year’s performances and their fightback against Edinburgh last week that it will be a tough and extremely demanding encounter.

“They have a big physical pack and a set of talented backs so we need to be able to match this challenge and go toe-to-toe with them. With a noisy home support, Matty Douglas and his team will have their players fired up and we expect to face an immediate onslaught.

“We need to be patient and precise in defence, soak up any pressure and counter as and when the opportunities present. We aim to build on last week’s performance and make sure we continue the momentum.”


The South (versus Glasgow & The West @ Poynder Park on Saturday 30th March, kick off 3pm): Kirk Ford (Hawick); Archie Barbour (Kelso), Dwain Patterson (Kelso), Franke Robson (Kelso), Callum Anderson (Selkirk); Struan Hutchison (Melrose), Andy Tait (Kelso); Shawn Muir © (Hawick), Fraser Renwick (Hawick), Nicky Little (Hawick), Dalton Redpath (Hawick), Keith Melbourne (Kelso), Connor Sutherland (Hawick), Calum Renwick (Hawick), Jae Linton (Hawick). Replacements: Ross Graham (Hawick), Grant Shiells (Kelso), Terry Logan (Kelso), Bruce McNeil (Kelso), Angus Dun (Gala), Douglas Crawford (Melrose), Josh Welsh (Selkirk), Ben Gill (Gala).

Glasgow & The West: Torquil MacLeod (Glasgow Hawks); Scott Bickerstaff (Marr), Charlie Lonegran (GHA), Conor Bickerstaff © (Marr), Tom Lanni (Ayr); Colin Sturgeon (Marr), Grant Baird (Marr); Brandon Sweet(Marr), Tom Martin (Ayr), Michael Fox (GHA), David Andrew (Marr), Stephen Leckey (Glasgow Hawks), Rohan Pottie (Ayr), Mark McCornick (Newton Stewart), Blair Jardine (Marr). Replacements: Dario Ewing (GHA), Alex Apthrope (Marr), Ali Rogers (Marr), Ruairidh Airlie (Ayr), Luke McCutcheon (GHA), Robbie Baird (Marr), Max MacFarlane GHA), Jake Jacobson (Marr).

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About David Barnes 3911 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.

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