WATSONIANS head coach Nikki Walker has made six changes to his starting XV as the Myreside men look to get their Super Series Championship title bid back on track on Saturday afternoon after two losses in a row.
They are still smarting from the 21-7 defeat at Stirling Wolves a fortnight ago and, more so, the 64-0 home reverse to Heriot’s last time out and will be looking to take their frustrations out on the winless Future XV at Myreside.
Young trio Findlay Thomson, Connor McAlpine and Finn Duraj get their opportunity to start at centre, scrum-half and hooker, respectively. Thomson comes into this one having trained with Glasgow Warriors this week.
Lomond MacPherson returns from long-term injury on the wing while, after missing last week, Jake Kerr, usually a hooker, is at number seven. Kieran Watt is the sixth new face, replacing the benched Jamie Berrisford in the second-row. Fin Clarke and Seb Cecil join the replacements.
“We were all extremely disappointed with the completely unacceptable performance and scoreline last week against Edinburgh rivals Heriot’s,” said Walker.
“However, everything that went wrong has been analysed, discussed and worked on this week and the players reaction to this with honesty and hard work has been excellent.
“This bump in our Super Series road will not determine our season and we quickly move on and focus on to our next challenge that are an exciting, young and energetic Future XV team.
“The Future XV’s progress and performances have enhanced week on week and we are fully aware of the danger they will pose, particularly with ball in hand.
“With a lot of demons to remedy from last week I expect an immediate reaction from both teams leading to an exciting and physical contest.”
The Future XV go into this one as the regular season reaches its halfway point with five defeats from five. Last week they went down 40-0 to Ayrshire Bulls and they have made a number of changes. Corey McCormack starts at hooker while Craig Nolan moves into the second-row row from the back-row with Ru Hart ruled out. Callum Smyth, usually a loose-head, will start at six.
The aforementioned McCormack has come through the SQ programme and Zak Griffiths, the replacement hooker, is from Boroughmuir Bears.
In the backs, Finn Burgess starts at nine and Amena Caqusau returns from injury on the wing. Rob Cromar and Team Scotland sevens gold medal winner Fergus Watson are added to the bench.
“Another tough test awaits us this weekend against a Watsonians team who have quality across their team,” said Future XV co-coach. “We know they pose a physical challenge up front which will be another test for our young forward pack and they have a backline that will be dangerous if allowed to play on the front foot.
“We had a lot of positives in defence last week against a strong Bulls team and we will need to build on these on Saturday. We were disappointed with elements of our attack against the Bulls and know that we need to be more confident and brave with our decision making.”
Watsonians (versus the Future XV at Myreside on Saturday @ 3pm): D Coetzer; L MacPherson, G Pringle, F Thompson, S King; J Baggott ©, C McAlpine; C Davidson, F Duraj, B Bratton, K Watt, A Scopes, L Ball, J Kerr, K van Niekerk. Subs: C Davies, F Clarke, G Scougall, J Berrisford, S Cecil, M Scott, L Berg, F Owsley.
Future XV: J Hocking; K Johnston, B Salmon, C Ferrie, A Caqusau; I Coates, F Burgess; T Banatvala, C McCormack, C Norrie, C Nolan, R Burkę, C Smyth, F Douglas, T Currie©. Substitutes: Z Griffiths, R Deans, R Cromar, L Fergusson, A Bogidrau, F Watson, M Urwin, L Townsend.
Referee: Ian Kenny
Key clash: Kwagga van Niekerk versus Tom Currie
Verdict: There is no doubt that Watsonians will have been hurting badly in recent days after their thumping by Heriot’s, while the Future XV are improving, but they need to be willing to have more of a go in attack. This could be another tough day at the office for the youngsters.
Across the capital, in the 5pm game, Heriot’s know that a bonus point win over Southern Knights would put them top of the table on points difference ahead of the Bulls at the halfway stage of the regular season.
Unsurprisingly, there are minimal changes to the squad that dismantled Watsonians. Ross Jones starts at 10 with Bruce Houston having signed a short-term deal with Ealing Trailfinders down south. Back-row Sam Wallace, with six tries in his last two outings, is one to watch.
The bench sees Struan Cessford drop out of the squad and the return of Michael Liness and Callum Anderson to the fray.
“Last Friday could not have gone much better for us and is a point we have stressed with the players this week, not all the factors that went our way were in our control and it’s important we understand that as we go into a brand new week and a brand new set of circumstances,” head coach Ben Cairns said.
“Our expectations need to be based on the areas we can control, so the focus this week has been about replicating the same energy and general performance levels we produced.
“The Knights have gone under the radar a bit, but have been producing better performances every week and that came to fruition for them last Saturday versus Wolves. They have a strong set piece and a 10 who gets them playing in the right areas.“They will have gained great confidence from beating one of the form teams in the league last time out and we know we will face a heavily motivated side on Saturday evening.
“With the weather set to be fantastic, our sponsors lunch pre-match and the Rugby World Cup on television post-match it is all set to be a cracking day at Goldenacre.”
Harry Borthwick, the key back-rower for the Knights, misses out with a concussion sustained in the win against the Wolves in their last game. They welcome back Garry Young to No 8 and the rest of the starting XV stays the same with full-back Donald Crawford and back-row Johnny Rutherford having shaken off knocks.
With club captain Russell Anderson having left this week to join Premiership side Hawick his place on the bench is taken by Ewan Miller. Stand-off Gregor McNeish skippers the side.
“The win over the Wolves has given us a huge boost and put a few smiles on the faces of the players and supporters,” head coach Alan Tait said. :Each game is extremely tough in this competition and Heriot’s last result showed how dangerous they are and how we will need to be competitive for 80 minutes and work hard for the result as it won’t come easy.
“The team is moving in the right direction and we’ve asked for another big performance from the group. We’ve challenged ourselves this week and asked a few questions about certain areas of our game, so we are looking forward to seeing the response and seeing how we perform following last week’s win.”
Heriot’s (versus Southern Knights at Goldenacre on Saturday @ 5pm): L Richman; G Barber, M Davidson, G Hughes, L Wells; R Jones, F Campbell; C Keen, C Fenton©, E McLaren, R Seydak, J Campell, W Nelson, S Wallace, B Smith. Subs: M Liness, J Scott, C Ramsay, C Anderson, D Hood, E McAra, D King, S Pecqueur.
Southern Knights: D Crawford; A Cross, P Anderson, C Grieve, C Barrett; G McNeish©, C Bell; C Greer, C Thunder, D Gamble, S Derrick A Ferrie, M Job, J Rutherford, G Young. Subs: L Thompson, J Dobie, C Dodds, E Miller, A Hall, R Cottrell, H Rutherford, H Bentley.
Referee: Ruairidh Campbell.
Key clash: Grant Hughes versus Callum Grieve.
Verdict: This should be a free-flowing contest with both sides coming off the back of very important results. Heriot’s were unstoppable against Watsonians while the Knights were very good for 60 of the 80 minutes versus the Wolves. Both sides are pretty settled, but Heriot’s have a stronger bench and are on home turf.