IT will be a family affair up front for the Future XV with Ollie (getting his first start of the season) and older brother Jerry Blyth-Lafferty lining up at tight-head prop and hooker, respectively, for the age-grade side as they hunt their first win in 11 outings so far during this debut Super Series campaign, against Watsonians at Myreside tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon.
The siblings, who are products of nearby Boroughmuir, are joined in the front-row by Tom Banatvala, who is rewarded for a strong showing off the bench in last weekend’s creditable showing against Ayrshire Bulls, while Craig Nolan comes into the starting back-row in place of the injured Jonny Morris.
Matt Urwin starts at 10 after impressing off the bench during the last fortnigh, while Ben Salmon returns to 13 after missing the Bulls game with illness, with Fergus Watson moving to full-back and Finn Douglas returning to the starting team. Olly Duncan and Johnny Ventisei are on the bench after recovering from injury.
“We are looking forward to another huge test against another of the top teams in the competition,” said Future XV co-coach Scott Forrest. “With a play-off spot already confirmed we’re sure that Watsonians will be looking to build some consistency and form going into their semi-final next week and we are expecting a very physical encounter.
“We showed some real improvements against the Bulls last weekend and will be looking to build on these again. With only two fixtures remaining for the Future XV this season, we are determined to keep building on our recent positive performances.”
The Future XV will have a chance to measure themselves against two players who occupied their boots two seasons back before going on to win professional contracts with fit again No 8 Ben Muncaster and hooker Patrick Harrison released by Edinburgh for this match.
“Some squad rotation this week after a poor performance last week at Goldenacre that gives opportunity for some to put in a performance and gain selection for our away semi-final to Ayrshire Bulls next Saturday,” said head coach Nikki Walker, comforted by the fact that his team are already guaranteed a third place finish before this final game of their regular season.
“Matt Reid comes in at fullback and Dom Coetzer starts at 10. We have also had a timely bolster with Patrick Harrison and Ben Muncaster being allowed to play to get some game-time in our pack. Both have played for Watsonians in the Super Series previously and have always shown why they play at a level above. Seb Cecil has now made a full recovery from injury and starts at blindside and is also captain this weekend.
“The Future XV have improved game on game this season and we know they will be just the test we need prior to play-off rugby. They really tested us with ball in hand in game one and I expect nothing less this weekend. We will need to be very disciplined and accurate with and without the ball in our performance this weekend to ensure we do not only get the win we desire but also take some momentum into next week’s semi-final.”
Watsonians (versus Future XV at Myreside on Saturday at 3pm): M Reid; G Pringle, L Berg, S King, F Owsley; D Coetzer, M McAndrew; C Davidson, P Harrison, B Bratton, K Watt, J Berrisford, S Cecil©, K Main, B Muncaster. Substitutes: J Kerr, C Murphy, G Scougall, A Scopes, L Ball, F Duraj, M Scott, J Baggott.
Future XV: F Watson; K Johnston, B Salmon, K Yule, A Caqusau; M Urwin, F Burgess; T Banatvala, J Blyth-Lafferty, O Blyth-Lafferty, R Burke, R Hart, C Nolan, Freddy Douglas, T Currie©. Substitues: M Brogan, R Deans, C Norrie, O Duncan, C Ferrie, J Hocking K Johnston, J Ventisei.
Referee: Jonny Perriam
Ket battle: Ben Muncaster versus Tom Currie
Verdict: In a change to the established pattern for this Super Series campaign, the Future XV have the more settled side coming into this match and perhaps also more momentum having pushed Ayrshire Bulls hard last week while Watsonians did not deliver to the standards they expect of themselves against Heriot’s. However, the Myreside men have experience across their squad and it is hard to see past another tough lesson for the visitors. No doubt we will be told, again, that being stuck in an endless death-spiral of defeats is great preparation for the Under-20s Six Nations.
Meanwhile, Southern Knights’ draw with Heriot’s on Friday night means that Stirling Wolves now have a free-hit in their final regular season game away to Boroughmuir Bears, kicking off at 5pm, because they are now already guaranteed the fourth and final play-off spot, with their semi-final against Heriot’s being played at Hawthornden (home of Lasswade) next Friday night.
Gregor Hiddleston returns at hooker for the Wolves after a few weeks away with Glasgow Warriors, while Tom Smith retains his place in the second-row after a strong performance against Southern Knights last week. Hamish Ferguson, who has recovered from illness, takes the place of Shaun MacDonald on the bench. In the backline Kyle McGhie replaces Eric Davey on the bench in an otherwise settled group.
“I was very pleased with our performance against Southern Knights last week where I thought our work rate and physicality on both sides of the ball was excellent,” said Pollock.
“Bears put us under real pressure at Bridgehaugh earlier in the season before we pulled away at the finish to win, so we know we will be in for a real test this week from a home side who are quick to take advantage of any mistakes you make and will want to finish the season on a high. This should be another exciting game for the supporters.
The only change to the Bears starting XV from the side which took on the Bulls in their last outing a fortnight ago is at scrum-half where Ruairidh Swan has recovered from injury to replace Kaleem Barreto, who has returned to the Team GB Sevens squad.
On the bench, Fin Gillgrass (Exeter University/Boroughmuir RFC) comes in as ‘emergency cover’ at loose-head, while
Josh Beveridge returns to cover scrum-half.
“It has been a disjointed second half of the season but the last outing away to Ayrshire Bulls was more pleasing, where we found an ability to stay in the game and return home to Meggetland with something tangible for our efforts,” said Bears head coach Graham Shiel. “Only a similar level of effort and accuracy will allow us to compete with Stirling Wolves this weekend.
“Wolves have had a strong campaign in 2023 and they are a very experienced squad. In our first-round game, it was very competitive [with] Wolves edging us out late in the game, which was a disappointing outcome for us having played well for long periods, but we appreciate that only playing for long periods is not good enough to close out games in the Super Series competition.
“Wolves are comfortable with and without ball and clearly work hard as a squad, so it is a great challenge for the Bears to find a way to be competitive and take opportunities when afforded, which is easier said than done!”
Boroughmuir Bears (versus Stirling Wolves at Meggetland on Saturday at 5pm): E Muirhead; M Cullen, D Munn, S Robeson©, J Jenkins; A McLean, R Swan; C McFeat Smith, C Tait, M McGinley, M Loboda, J Fisher, C Keddie ©, K Westlake, T Andrews. Substitutes: A Allen, F Gillgrass L Alessandri, S McGinley, Z Griffiths, J Beveridge, R Kerr, C Ramm.
Stirling Wolves: G Bryce; M Heron, R Southern, M Holden©, R McKnight; C Jackson, B Afshar; G Breese, G Hiddleston, M Tamosaitis, T Smith, J Pow, R Knott, C Gordon, E Hasdell. Substitutes: J Roberts, L Quarm, L Skinner, H Ferguson, E Timpson, K McGhie, E Cunningham, S Rockley.
Referee: Rob McDowell
Ket battle: Euan Muirhead versus Glenn Bryce
Verdict: Stirling need just a losing bonus, but know that a big performance will give them momentum going into the do-or-die part of the season. Away win.