Super6 preview: Russian recruit Morgan Inness hits the ground running with Watsonians

No 8 is keen to maintain excellent early season form when taking on west Edinburgh rivals Boroughmuir Bears at Meggetland this afternoon

Morgan Inness in action for Watsonians against Southern Knights in round one of this Super6 campaign. Image: Southern Knights. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson
Morgan Inness in action for Watsonians against Southern Knights in round one of this Super6 campaign. Image: Southern Knights. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

MORGAN INNESS arrived at Myreside straight off a year playing club rugby in Russia and made enough of an impact in the three weeks of pre-season he managed to fit in to be made vice-captain of the Watsonians Super6 team.

The 24-year-old back-rower has since vindicated the faith shown in him by head coach Fergus Pringle by being ever-present and key performer in the side as they have marched to the top of the league with four consecutive wins in the opening four rounds of this new competition.

He was named man-of-the-match after the team’s opening weekend victory over the Southern Knights and scored the try which set Watsonians on their way to a 28-10 win over Boroughmuir Bears last weekend. Throughout the four matches, his work-rate and ball-carrying has been crucial to the team’s success.

Super6: Heriot’s depth is key as Southern Knights fall short again

Super6: Ayrshire Bulls blast past Stirling County with a big second half performance

Glasgow v La Rochelle: Warriors denied at the death

“I think it is to do with the age profile of the team,” says Inness – who was born in Singapore but moved to New Zealand with his family when he was five-years-old – when asked about his vice-captaincy appointment.

“It must be one of the youngest teams I have ever been involved in – usually you’ve got a core group of players in their late 20s and early 30s who are the leaders of the side – but here it is a much younger group with over half the squad 21 or 22, or even younger. And the few older guys have come from different clubs, so it was quite an open field in terms of leaders.

“I was lucky enough to captain a bit in New Zealand before heading over to Russia, so I had that experience, and when Fergus said to me that there was an opportunity there I told him that I was definitely up for it.

“I’m only 24, but I suppose I’ve got a fair bit of experience on the clock,” he adds, reflecting on a senior playing career which has seen him take in a year in Bromsgrove near Birmingham in England, a couple of seasons playing for Lincoln University in Christchurch whilst studying agricultural science (during which time he played alongside All Black Jodie Barrett) and then a couple seasons playing Premier grade club rugby for Sydenham in Chrstchurch where he progressed to captaining the 1st XV and made the Canterbury wider training group in 2018.

“I didn’t earn a contract, but I played for Canterbury’s ‘B’ team and learnt a lot in that environment,” he says.

From Russia with love

After his degree, Inness decided to see a bit more of the world, so linked up with a former coach who had taken on a role at Russian side Kuban, based in the city of Krasnodar.

“There was two New Zealand coaches take on at Kuban and they were allowed seven overseas players, so I was one of them. There was also an S&C coach went across so there was a decent gang of us,” he explains.

“The standard wasn’t too bad. The winner of the competition plays in the challenge Cup, so they get some pretty decent exposure to some of the top teams in Europe, and that has a trickle-down effect into the rest of the league.

“It is probably still a little bit old school in terms of pattern and plays. Because it is a minority sport, a lot of the guys have come to rugby in their late teens or early twenties rather than starting out when they are five or six years old like they do in New Zealand, so the skill level and understanding is maybe not quite so high – but the physical side is right up there.

“After a season in Russia, I was pretty keen to push on and reach a higher level. That was the top league over there and unless I stayed for five years to qualify for the Russian national team there wasn’t anywhere for me to progress to, so I said to my agent that I was looking to move on and Super6 was one of the options he came up with.”

“It was brand new and sounded pretty exciting, plus I liked the idea of living in Scotland, so I decided to give it a crack,” added Inness, who has a UK passport through his Newcastle-born father.

“I’ve only signed for a season, but in terms of how the competition has gone so far, it has been really good. The games have all been very competitive, the standard is not too bad and is only going to get better, and hopefully with the games being on TV that can really help lift the profile. It looks to me like everything is moving in the right direction, so that is quite exciting from my perspective and I’d definitely be looking to do another season.

“I have managed to pick up a job as an agricultural consultant, which makes use of my degree, so I am managing to tick off that career box as well. Everything seems to have fallen into place.”

Top dogs

Watsonians were knocked off top spot in the Super6 table by Ayrshire Bulls yesterday afternoon, but will be back at the summit if they back up last week’s win over the Bears at Myreside with another success against the same opposition at Meggetland  this afternoon (the game is being shown live on the BBC Scotland website).

Inness is once again in the No 8 jersey as part of a handy-looking back-row triumvirate alongside Academy prospect and last week’s man-of-the-match Connor Boyle at openside, and Fijian 7s star Mesu Kunavula, who has been released again by Edinburgh to play at blindside.

Consistency in selection has been one of the keys to Watsonians’ success this season, but Pringle has made six changes in total to his starting XV this week, including a completely revamped three-quarter line.

Most notably, outside-centre where Joe Reynolds – a star performer so far in the campaign – is unavailable due to injury and is replaced by Andrew Chalmers. Meanwhile, Lewis Berg returns at inside centre in place of DJ Inness, Ru Smith gets his first chance of the season on the left wing in place of Angus Guthrie and Lomond Macpherson is recalled on the right wing in place of Kody McGovern.

Ali Harris swaps in for Roan Frostwick at scrum-half, while Harry Fisher and Ewan Fox join the squad on the bench.

“We know the Bears have built a great match day atmosphere for their home games and this game will be a tough challenge for us,” said head coach Pringle.

Watsonians: Jamie Forbes; Lomond Macpherson, Lewis Berg, Andrew Chalmers, Ruaridh Smith; Lee Millar©, Ali Harris; Harrison Courtney, Cal Davies, Nathan Borel, Brian Leitch, Jamie Hodgson, Mesu Kunavula, Connor Boyle, Morgan Inness. Subs: Campbell Wilson, Finn Hobbis, Jonny Gibson, Michael Badenhorst, Harry Fisher, Roan Frostwick, Ewan Fox, Angus Guthrie.

Boroughmuir Bears: Martin Cimprich; Cammy Gray, Archie Russell, Greg Cannie, Glen Faulds; Chris Laidlaw©, Kyle McGhie; Charlie Capps, Johnny Matthews, Dan Winning, David Medjebeur, Callum Atkinson, Bruce Flockhart, Scott McGinley, Craig Keddie. Subs: Toby Francombe, Michael Downer, Martin McGinley, Ewan Stewart, Aubrey Mncube, Tom Wilson, Rory Arthur, Jack Steele.

Super6: Heriot’s depth is key as Southern Knights fall short again

About David Barnes 3989 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.