Premiership round one preview: runners, riders and verdicts

Lots of new faces across the board as top tier of Scottish club game returns from summer break

Currie Chieftains host Jed-Forest in round on of the 2022-23 Premiership season. Image: Ian Gidney
Currie Chieftains host Jed-Forest in round on of the 2022-23 Premiership season. Image: Ian Gidney

IN some ways it seems like only yesterday that Marr were winning the 2021-22 Tennent’s Premiership Final on April 2nd at Malleny Park and in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago. Whichever, Premiership rugby is now back with week one’s fixtures for 2022-23 taking place on Saturday. And with some players having retired, others moved on to Super6 and youngsters stepping up to senior rugby for the first time, there have been changes in all of the top-flight squads.

Reigning champions Marr begin their title defence at home to a Musselburgh side under new head coach Derek O’Riordan, having finished seventh in the regular season table last time around.

Currie Chieftains, who led the way for most of last term and only lost on the opening day to Hawick and the last day to Marr, are at home to a Jed-Forest side who also have a new head coach in the shape of Andy Brown.


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Hawick finished third last term in the regular-season table before losing to Marr in the play-off semi-finals and they will defend the Bill McLaren Shield at home to Selkirk. The visitors finished ninth in the regular season table in 2021-22.

Edinburgh Accies were the other play-off semi-final losers last time around and they welcome GHA to Raeburn Place to open up. GHA were sixth in the regular season table before the summer.

Heriot’s Blues have replaced Aberdeen Grammar in the top flight and it will be fascinating to see the first ‘club XV’ of a Super6 club playing at this level. They start off away at a Glasgow Hawks side who finished fifth in the regular season table last year.

In this campaign the regular season fixtures are due to run until January 21st before the top four meet in the play-off semi-finals. There will be thrills and spills over the next few months and the top four is the aim for all while one team will be relegated with one club coming up from Tennent’s National League Division One.

Let the games commence…

 

The Lowdown –

Currie Chieftains v Jed-Forest

Venue: Malleny Park @ 3pm

Teams –

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; K McGovern, J McCaig, G Cannie, C Meager; J Forbes, P Boyer; G Carson©, S Fisher, C Ramsay, E Stewart, C Roman, A MacLean, G Nelson, R Davies. Subs: R Stewart, A Cameron, J Duncan, C Lessels, S Leto.

Jed-Forest: L Elder; O Cranston, R Marshall, D Buckley, R Shirra-Gibb; L Walker, A Bambrick; G Paxton, F Scott, P Ferreira, A Sweenie, C Skeldon©, J Mcgough, G Young, M Atkinson. Subs: J Story, J Hynd, R Ferreira, E Lauder, B McNeil.

Key battle: Rhys Davies versus Matthew Atkinson.

Team news –

Currie Chieftains: Greg Cannie and Kody McGovern make their debuts for Currie in the Premiership alongside Arran Cameron and Jack Duncan off the bench. Graeme Carson captains the side and is supported by vice-captains Rhys Davies and Jamie Forbes.

Jed-Forest: Lewis and Gregor Young, stalwarts of the last decade, are missing. But Australian Lewis Walker should add some class at stand-off.

What the coaches say –

“It’s great to kick off another league campaign at Malleny on Saturday against a Jed team who have recruited well. It’s going to be a tough starter and we are looking forward to the challenge. With very little to go on with regards to Jed, it’s all about focussing on our performance this week and putting all the hard work over pre-season into practice …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

“With this being my first Premiership game, I’m looking forward to the challenge of what I can only imagine will be a tough opposition in Currie …” – Andy Brown (Jed-Forest)

Verdict: Chieftains were unbeaten at home all of last season until the final loss to Marr and they will want to get off to a flyer this term to set their stall out. Jed have a complete new coaching set-up so Andy Brown and co will want to put their stamp on things early on, but they will find this a tricky opener, but they are without the Young twins.

Home win.

 

Marr v Musselburgh

Venue: Fullarton Park @ 3pm

Teams –

Marr: C Inglis; A Ramage, S Bickerstaff, N Calder, J Scott; C Sturgeon©, G Baird; G Reid, C McMillan, C Miller, D Andrew, F Grant, B Jardine, C Steel, C Folan. Subs: S Khan, R Brown, K McCulloch, G Beckwith, C Bickerstaff.

Musselburgh: J Ferguson; T Foley, F Thomson, R Watt, S Watt; D Owenson, F Call; P Brown, B Stott, C Arthur, C Champion, J Haynes, C Pryde, M Crawford, L Hutson. Subs: F Duraj, R Hanning, L Milne, M McMillan, C Marshall.

Key battle: Nairn Calder versus Rory Watt.

Team news –

Marr: Greg Montgomery, Cameron Young, Angus Johnston, Ben Johnston, Matt O’Sullivan and Andrew Acton are unavailable due to injury, holiday or illness. They are expected to be available either next week or the following week. Gregor Paxton was injured in pre-season and will be unavailable until after Christmas. This allows Nairn Calder and Andrew Ramage to make their first league starts for Marr. Both are young talented players with Ramage playing for Marr College last year. With a couple of back-row players unavailable, Blair Jardine will be in there with Curran McMillan starting at hooker. Callum Folan will make his first league appearance at No 8 since joining the club in the summer. Conor Bickerstaff is on the bench for the first time after a long-term knee injury to boost the squad.

Musselburgh: Scrum-half Fionn Call makes his competitive debut having joined from Murrayfield Wanderers while young talents like Finn Duraj, who has had a taste of Super6 with Boroughmuir Bears, Matthew McMillan and Lochie Milne will look to impress from the bench.

What the coaches say –

“After a great end to last season and winning the play-off final we are all looking forward to our first league game at home on Saturday. We have had several players leave and join the club during the summer. Pre-season has gone well with a few younger players challenging the established members of our squad for places in the first XV. We know the task of reaching the play-off final this season will be extremely difficult with a few teams recruiting well and desperate to defeat us this season. Our first league game against Musselburgh at home will be tough. They have a new head coach who will have prepared them well to come to Fullarton and win. They have a strong pack and good backline who will provide us with a difficult challenge. We have prepared well during the week and have worked on a few things. We are looking forward to seeing how the new and younger players perform…” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

“I’m really pleased with the incremental progress we have been making throughout training and games in pre-season and although there have been some bumps in the road I believe we are learning and growing from a couple of those setbacks. This week has been about us getting psychologically prepared to attack the first three games and Marr is a great way to start that block away from home. I’m confident we are in a frame of mind to go toe-to-toe in Troon with the squad we are bringing and I’m really excited to see what we are capable of under league conditions…” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)

Verdict: Like Currie, Marr were very impressive at home last term. They have a few changes to their playing group and it will be interesting to see how they new faces settle into a squad that is expected to win most weeks. Musselburgh will look to silence the Fullarton Park faithful and put in place their own building blocks under a new head coach, but on their own patch Marr should just be too strong.

Home win.

 

Edinburgh Accies v GHA

Venue: Raeburn Place @ 3pm

Teams –

Edinburgh Accies: K Gossman; M Wallace, R Kent, V Hart, L Wells; J Loomes©, M Love; C Imrie, R Montgomery, C Taylor, E McVie, C Bain, F Simpson, M Walker, T Drennan. Subs: H Campbell, C Lacour, M Crowther, B Grainger, F Lindsay.

GHA: L Bardelli; S Derrick, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, A Caqusau; A Bogidrau, R MacFarlane; J Low, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, S Callaghan, J McEntegart, D Ewing©, L McCutcheon. Subs: C Williamson, R Hay, A Flynn, G Baird, TBC.

Key battle: Matt Walker versus Dario Ewing.

Team news –

Edinburgh Accies: Kerr Gossman, Lewis Wells and Euan McVie will make starting debuts this weekend with Tom Drennan returning to the club after some seasons away. Hamish Campbell and Fraser Lindsay will debut from the bench.

GHA: The club’s FOSROC Academy players Amena Caqusau, Aminio Bogidrau, Archie Falconer and Jamie McEntegart are handed starts while Adam Flynn who will look to make an impact off the bench.

What the coaches say –

“As a group we are really excited to kick start season 2022-23 at home and the players have worked incredibly hard during pre-season. The first week is always a bit of the unknown, our previous matches with GHA have always been high scoring affairs with both teams wanting to play expansive rugby. I don’t see this Saturday being any different …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

“We feel we have great mix of experience and young prospects in our first squad of the season to play Edinburgh Accies this weekend. Dario Ewing will captain the side with the support from experienced players like Max MacFarlane, Charlie Lonergan and Michael Fox …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)

Verdict: As Iain Bertinussen says, both of these teams like to run the ball and it should be an entertaining 80 minutes. Accies were good at home last year and having the experience of Kerr Gossman now at full-back is a bonus. Really looking forward to seeing how GHA’s exciting crop of youngsters do in the league this season, but Accies may just have too much firepower.

Home win.

 

Hawick v Selkirk

(Bill McLaren Shield match)

Venue: Mansfield Park @ 3pm

Teams –

Hawick: L Ferguson; L Gordon-Woolley, A Mitchell, K Ford, R McKean; K Brunton, H Patterson; S Muir, M Carryer©, R Macleod, D Redpath, R Linton, S Graham, C Sutherland, J Linton. Subs: T Hope, N Little, C Renwick, G Welsh, B Donaldson.

Selkirk: From: J Hamilton, R Nixon, R Cottrell, M Reid, H Clarkson, A Grant-Suttie, B Cullen, L Ferguson, F Anderson, Aaron McColm©, C Whyte, B Riddell, K Thomson, Z Szwagrzak, J Head, Andrew McColm, A Cochrane, L Pettie©, R Cook, C Graur, C Turnbull, S McClymont, L Cassidy, E McQuillin, M Job.

Key battle: Ruaridh Macleod versus Luke Pettie.

Team news –

Hawick: Ross Graham was due to start at hooker, but a dead leg suffered against Tynedale last Saturday and a failed fitness test on Thursday night ruled him out, so club captain Matty Carryer at No 2 starts with Tom Hope coming onto the bench. Dalton Redpath is back at his hometown club after a spell with the Southern Knights in Super6 while Jae Linton makes a welcome return after a long-term injury. Teenager Hector Patterson, the son of former Scotland cap Derrick, gets the nod at nine after impressing in pre-season.

Selkirk: A few late fitness tests to be taken.

What the coaches say –

“It can’t get much bigger than a Border derby to kick off our Premiership campaign for season 2022-23. It’s one we are really looking forward to and the players have worked hard over the past few months and are eager to get going. We know what Selkirk will bring as we had two very tight games last year that could have gone either way. Last season we were going into our first league game hoping for the best for the season, but our mindset is completely different this year and as a squad we have set goals early and it’s important we get off to a good start and hit the ground running with a solid performance against Selkirk…” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

“Not many tougher places to go week one, we know what it will take to beat Hawick and we have to be at our best, but it is a challenge that everyone at the club is relishing …” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)

Verdict: Hawick beat Currie Chieftains at home in the first game of last season and never looked back on their home turf. Selkirk’s campaign was a bit ‘stop-start’ and they will want to be better this time around. It will be good to see young talents Hector Patterson and Munro Job in action for their respective sides. The Greens should have just too much after a fiery affair.

Home win.

 

Glasgow Hawks v Heriot’s Blues

Venue: Balgray @ 3pm

Teams –

Glasgow Hawks: H Bullock; R Flett, M Stewart, B McGroarty, R Darroch; G Cruikshanks, E Davey; M Downer, P Cairncross, G Strain, A Syme, S Leckey©, T Wright, L Stewart, O Baird. Subs: I Totic, A Al-Agilly, R Hart, S Greig, J Blair.

Heriot’s Blues: I Parkin; C Dineen, P Christie, P Burns, C Robertson; D Martin, G Wilson; A Munro, E Young, R Hutchison©, M Keough, L Gordon, M Bruce, S Wallace, D Wither. Subs: D Westwood, J Lascelles, W Dineen, R Thomson, R Meldrum.

Key battle: Gavin Cruikshanks versus Dom Martin.

Team news –

Glasgow Hawks: Five players in the starting team will make their debuts in Tiaan Wright, Oscar Baird, Eric Davey, Gavin Cruickshanks and Ross Darroch, with the possibility of another two making their Hawks bows off the bench in the shape of Ruaraidh Hart and Jamie Blair.

Heriot’s Blues: Tighthead prop Ross Hutchison skippers the league new boys in the absence of Callum Bell while youngsters Elliot Young and Sam Wallace are handing starts in the pack alongside him having impressed in pre-season.

What the coaches say –

“With over 30 new players on our books and training numbers the best they have been since the start of the new Premiership, we are excited to get the season underway. Training has been intense with players fighting for selection and there are a few who are unlucky to miss out while others are unavailable due to injury or other commitments. Having used over 50 players last year, it will be exciting to see what players grasp the opportunity and make the jersey their own and put themselves in the frame for Super6 and Scotland under-20 honours. It’s great to see one of the most prestigious clubs in Scotland back in the Premiership and we know Heriot’s will be well coached and difficult to beat under the tutelage of Phil Smith. If last season’s team is anything to go by, they will have experience in key areas to manage the game. We will have to be ruthless in attack and take our opportunities when they are presented to us …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

“We are delighted to be back and have a brand new team travelling to Balgray. There is a lot of excitement around the club and we just hope we can return to Goldenacre with something to celebrate alongside the Super6 team …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s Blues)

Verdict: A number of new faces for Hawks, but if they can settle in quickly then it could be exciting times down at Balgray. If the squad can be more consistent this term then they will look to push for the play-offs. The Heriot’s Blues team-sheet shows a number of new names too and the experienced half-backs Graham Wilson and Dom Martin will be key. On home turf Hawks should have just too much here.

Home win.


2022-23 Premiership Season Preview

About Gary Heatly 318 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.