STIRLING WOLVES will look to get back on the horse against Boroughmuir Bears tomorrow night after clattering their last hurdle, away to Southern Knights, last weekend.
Eddie Pollock’s side are boosted by the return of the steadying hands of Craig Jackson and Kyle McGhie at half-back, with sipper Marcus Holden switching back to centre. Meanwhile, George Breese and Moby Ogunlaja come in as starting props with Lliam Quarm and Lewis Skinner reverting to the bench. Ed Timpson replaces the injured Ed Hasdell in the back-row with Ruaridh Knott moving to No 8.
“As a group we are reflecting on an unusually inaccurate performance last week at Southern Knights, and I expect a positive reaction this week in front of a noisy home crowd at Bridgehaugh,” said Pollock. “The Bears have a talented group of young players, who Graham Shiel has managed to mould into an effective, very hard-working unit. The all-round ability in their group makes them a difficult opponent to play against and we are very much aware of the variety of threats that they pose.”
Meanwhile, Bears can no longer call on the services of back-five forward Josh King, who has signed for English Championship side Cornish Pirates with immediate effect. He has been named on the bench for tomorrow night’s home Premiership Cup match against Bath, linking up with his former Meggetland team-mate Tom Pittman who starts at stand-off. Former Scotland Under-20s prop Fin Richardson is also on the bench for the Pirates.
While the goal must be to have more Super Series players progressing to become full-time members of one of Scotland’s two pro squads, opportunities like this allow players who are not quite at that level the chance to prove themselves in a full-time environment. It isn’t ideal but the hope must be that somebody will be keeping an eye on King’s progress, as well as the numerous other Super Series players who have chosen a similar path into the Championship.
Kieran Westlake fills the gap left by King’s speedy departure by shifting from No 8 to blindside flanker, with Craig Keddie and Scott McGinley returning to the starting XV at No 8 at openside, respectively. Iain Carmichael returns to his favoured position of loosehead prop, while Kaleem Barreto makes his first start of the campaign at No 9. Alex Thom has recovered from injury to be reinstated outside-centre so Joe Jenkins moves back to the wing. Callum McFeat Smith will make his first appearance in 2023 from the bench after recovering from a long term injury.
“A bye week last week was welcomed as we replenished the squad and gave players a breather from the competition,” said head coach Graham Shiel. “We have struggled to find consistency in their performances in the first half of the Championship. It was always going to be a challenge with various moving parts, but our aim for the remainder of the competition is to have as settled match-day squads as possible along with more consistent match-day performances.
“With this being the last game of of the first half of the Championship, it is important that we find a performance that we can build on in the second round of games.
“Bridgehaugh has been a venue that has always proven a challenge for the Bears and the fact we are facing a side that will be looking to redirect their frustration with their result at the Greenyards makes this visit even tougher.
“We know that Stirling have a very solid set-piece and an attack to match which has made them a very threatening outfit. They have influential players who can break games open, so we must find ways to impose ourselves on Stirling to build pressure and take our opportunities when they are afforded. Staying in the game for longer periods also remains a focus as we look to become more competitive within the Super Series competition.”
Stirling Wolves (versus Boroughmuir Bears at Bridgehaugh on Friday @ 7.35pm): : G Bryce; M Heron, R Southern, M Holden©, R McKnight; C Jackson, K McGhie; G Breese, G Hiddleston, M Ogunlaja, H Ferguson, J Pow, E Timpson, C Gordon, R Knott. Substitutes: R Kennedy, L Quarm, L Skinner, T Smith, S Macdonald, E Davy, C Scott, S Rockley.
Boroughmuir Bears: E Muirhead; M Cullen, A Thom, S Robeson (co-©), J Jenkins; G Paul, K Barreto; I Carmichael, C Tait, M McGinley, M Lodoba, J Fisher, K Westlake, S McGinley, C Keddie (co-©). Substitutes: A Allen, C McFeat Smith, D Winning, L Alessandri, T Andrews, J Beveridge, A McLean, C Ramm.
Referee: David Sutherland
Key battle: Marcus Holden versus Scott Roberson
Verdict: Two teams in patchy form, and while the visitors will feel refreshed by their week off, the hosts will be driven by anger at themselves for letting the momentum built through positive performances and results at home against the Future XV and Watsonians slip when they visited the Greenyards last Saturday. Back at Bridgehaugh, they’ll come out hard and should have enough firepower to secure a home win.