AYRSHIRE BULLS, champions of the 2021 Super6, host Boroughmuir Bears as the 2022 Sprint Series for the part-time professional league gets underway at Millbrae tonight [Friday]. Both teams have selected squads for this match which balance returning stalwarts from last year with new signings.
“Off the back of an excellent pre-season there have been selection headaches throughout the starting 15,” said Bulls head coach Pete Horne. “Everyone that is fit has put their best foot forward with the opportunities they have been given which has made it very difficult to decide who has the honour of opening the competition for us this season.
‘The starting 15 has a nice blend of youth and experience and our bench is loaded and ready to make a big impact. We are looking forward to welcoming Glasgow Warriors professionals Tom Lambert and Grant Stewart into our environment and I am excited to see them gain their first taste of Bulls rugby at Millbrae.”
“The group have worked incredibly hard over the last couple of months and I can’t wait to see them get out and express themselves at Millbrae this weekend,” he added.
“Boroughmuir have recruited well and we know they will have improved after another pre-season together with their coaching team. They play a great brand of rugby which makes them very dangerous when they get their attack going, and they have some real X-factor throughout their squad. It should be a terrific curtain-raiser for the competition.”
Meanwhile, visiting head coach Graham Shiel has seven debutants in his starting XV with four more to come off the bench, The selection of academy prospect Gregor Brown, making his comeback after 13 months out with a knee injury, is particularly good news, with the blindside flanker having shown plenty of power, toughness and ability during his short time in the senior game before that lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Teenager Corey Tait starts at hooker with big brother, Rhys, who captained Scotland Under-20s during the recent age-grade Six Nations, named on the bench. Glasgow Warriors pro Hamish Bain is also among the replacements.
“It is the toughest of openers for the Bears, away to Ayr on a Friday night … what a chance to gauge ourselves against the current champions!” said Shiel. “Pre-season has been a bit different than normal this year, but the squad are looking forward to progressing from where they were in 2021. This game provides this group an opportunity to put a marker down from which to move forward in 2022.”
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Ayrshire Bulls: L McNamara; E Cavan, T Glendinning, T Jordan, T Lanni; M Minogue, C Jones; A Nimmo, A McGuire, M Scott, E Bloodworth, A Samuel, L McNamara, J Knight, B MacPherson (captain). Substitutes; G Stewart, T Lambert, C Henderson, E Bulger, T Brown, J Lenac, C Townsend, A Tait.
Boroughmuir Bears: T Brown; A Scott, S Robeson, R McCallum, J Jenkins; H Mercer, R Swan; R Dunbar, C Tait, M McGinley, J King, E Ferrie, G Brown, S McGinley, C Keddie (captain). Substitutes: I Carmichael, B Sweet, C Smith, H Bain, J Fisher, M Johnstone, R Tait, D Munn.
Key battle: Tom Jodan v Robbie McCallum
Verdict: Just 14 members of this 23-strong Bulls match-day squad were involved in last year’s triumphant Super6 campaign, and only seven played in their Final win over Southern Knights, but Pete Horne appears to have recruited shrewdly and the hosts should have enough firepower to start this campaign as they finished the last – although there is more than enough talent in the visiting ranks to cause an upset given half a chance.