BOTH Stirling Wolves and Heriot’s opened their FOSROC Super6 Championship campaigns for 2022 with defeats, so they will be looking to get up and running at Bridgehaugh on Saturday afternoon.
Ryan Southern and Finlay Callaghan picked up injuries in the Wolves loss to the Boroughmuir Bears to add to the club’s already lengthy absentee list. However, Logan Trotter, who has been training with Glasgow Warriors, is back and starts in the No 15 jersey, meaning co-captain Marcus Holden moves to 12. Alex Thom will debut at 13 with Craig Jardine moving from the midfield to the wing and Euan Cunningham getting the nod over Charlie Beckett at stand-off. The latter is on the bench.
Cameron MacMillan and Gregor Hiddleston rotate in for John McKenna and Rhodri Tanner in the front row with Callum Cruikshank wearing six in the absence of the injured George Arnott. Back-row Shaun MacDonald and centre Craig Jackson are on the bench having joined on emergency loans from Stirling County and Gala respectively. The latter, a former Southern Knights skipper, is battling back from long-term injury.
“There’s been some tough reflections off the back of the opening-round home defeat to Boroughmuir Bears,” Wolves head coach Ben Cairns said. “We ultimately made too many errors and didn’t show enough energy to give ourselves a chance.
“Heriot’s played some good rugby at times against the Bulls, but fell off it physically in the latter stages as the opposition turned the screw. They’ve got a strong squad to choose from and their head coaches, Stuart Edwards and Finlay Gillies, know exactly how to set up a winning Heriot’s side, having both previously played for the club.
“With our women playing a pre-season fixture prior to our game and the good weather set to continue it should be another busy day at Bridgehaugh. This support does not go unnoticed by our group. We love playing in front of our home support and we cannot wait to get out there on Saturday and reward that support with an improved performance.”
Edinburgh Rugby Academy player Dan Gamble will start at tighthead prop for Heriot’s, with skipper Ruairidh Leishman moving forward from the back row to the second row, a move which sees Fraser Hastie reverting to the bench. Lewis Govenlock comes into the back row.
A new centre pairing sees Kyle Browne making his first Heriot’s start at this level alongside Nyle Godsmark. Bobby Kay moves to the bench, Rory Steele shifts to the wing from the midfield and Fraser Jones drops out of the 23. Struan Cessford, who scored a try for the Southern Knights in week one, is back with his parent club now and is covering tighthead.
“We are hurting after a disappointing result last weekend,” Heriot’s joint head coach Fin Gillies said. “We put ourselves in a position to win that game, but a lack of accuracy and not taking opportunities ultimately cost us dearly.
“We were encouraged with how we played for the first 50 minutes against Ayrshire Bulls and we were especially pleased that we showed some character to come from behind on two different occasions. We got to see glimpses of what the new Heriot’s will look like – we just need to try and keep that up for 80 minutes rather than 50.
“Stirling are a good rugby team. Ben has them well coached, well organised, and they will be hurting from last week’s defeat. Stirling are a creative, hard-working rugby team and will be desperate to get back on track at sunny Bridgehaugh this Saturday.”
Stirling Wolves (versus Heriot’s Rugby, Saturday 4.30pm): L Trotter; S Hamilton, A Thom, M Holden©, C Jardine; E Cunningham, G Christie; C MacMillan, G Hiddleston, L Skinner, J Pow, H Ferguson, C Cruikshank, C Gordon©, B Grant. Substitutes: R Tanner, J McKenna, G Breese, H McLeod, S MacDonald, C Beckett, C Jackson, L Jarvie.
Heriot’s Rugby: D King; R Steele, N Godsmark, K Browne, S Pecqueur; B Houston, J Gelderbloom; C Keen, C Fenton, D Gamble, R Seydak, R Leishman©, L Govenlock, I Wilson, J Mann. Subs: M Liness, J Scott, S Cessford, F Hastie, J Britton, M McAndrew, B Kay, R Jones.
Referee: Jonny Perriam.
Key battle: Euan Cunningham versus Bruce Houston.
Verdict: Like the Southern Knights, the Wolves have begun the season with a number of players missing and they will certainly miss the ball-carrying of George Arnott here. Having Logan Trotter back in the back three is a big boost, while it is a big game for No 10 Euan Cunningham. Ruairidh Leishman previously played for Stirling in the Premiership days and will have to lead by example if his Heriot’s outfit are to win on the road. The Wolves will have been stung by the home loss to the Bears in week one and do not often lose two in a row at Bridgehaugh. Home win.