Tennent’s Premiership countdown part 11: Everything you need to know

The definitive team-by-team guide to all ten sides competing in the Tennents Premiership this season

Tennent's Premiership
The Tennent's Premiership kicks of on Saturday, but who will be toasting a successful season when the dust starts to settle in seven months' time? Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE long summer is over. However, between Russell-gate, Super 6/Agenda 3 and a change of title sponsor for the domestic leagues, there has barely been a moment to draw breath.  At long last we can get back to concentrating on the rugby. The 2019-20 Tennent’s Premiership season kicks-off on Saturday afternoon. There has been plenty of movement during the recess (transfer window), but who has got the balance of their squad just right?

Here are the runners and riders –

AYR

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Head Coach: Peter Murchie; Assistant coaches: Glenn Tippett and Pat MacArthur;

Captain: Pete McCallum; Vice-captain: Danny McCluskey

Players In – Alex McGuire (GHK); Pat MacArthur (Glasgow Warriors); Alfie North (Gloucester Rugby); Allan Ferrie (Newton Stewart), David Corbenici (GHA), Marshall Sykes (St Joseph’s College), Wolf van Dijk (Holland); Amir Rademaker (Holland); Ollie Smith (Strathallan School); Kyle Rowe (Glasgow Hawks).

Players Out – Robin Hislop (Donacaster); Lewis Anderson (Hong Kong Scottish); George Hunter (relocated London); Rob McAlpine (relocated London); Scott Sutherland (retired); Jonny Agnew (relocated London); Matt Davidson (London Scottish), George Stokes (Darlington Mowden Park).                           

Pro Draft –Robbie Nairn (Glasgow Warriors), James Malcolm (Glasgow Warriors), Patrick Kelly (Glasgow Warriors), D’Arcy Rae (Glasgow Warriors), Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Hughes (Glasgow Warriors), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Siosiua Halanukonuka (Glasgow Warriors), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors), Robbie Fergusson (Scotland 7s), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), DTH van der Merwe (Glasgow Warriors).

Key Man: Tommy Spinks (back-row)

Young Gun: Marshall Sykes (lock / blindside flanker)

Last Year: 3rd in league, lost to worthy winners Melrose in the Grand Final.

Prediction: They should be there or thereabouts at the final shakedown, but loss of so many big match players may be decisive at key moments.

BOROUGHMUIR

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Head Coach: Peter Wright; Attack Coach: Graham Shiel; Defence Coach: Paul Larter; Scrum Coach: Neill Wood.

Captain: Chris Laidlaw

Players In – Rory Drummond (Watsonians); William Wardlaw (Howe of Fifer); Archie Russell (Cambridge University); Kerr Gossman (Stirling County); Will Inglis (Stewarts-Melville); Chris Anderson (Preston Lodge); Stuart Smith (North Berwick); Tom Wilson (Heriot’s); George Goodenough (Edinburgh University); Jack Steele (Glasgow Hawks); Rory Arthur (Dubai); Murray Johnstone (Peebles); Donald Crawford (Heriot’s).

Players Out – Michael Brown (returned home to Ireland); Grant McConnell (returned home to England); Daniel Marek (retired); Ciaran Whyte (Ampthill); Euan McKirdy (Ampthill); Michael Henry (England).

Pro Draft – Darryl Marfo (Edinburgh Rugby), Senitiki Nayalo (Edinburgh Rugby), Dave Cherry (Edinburgh Rugby), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby), Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby), Fraser McKenzie (Edinburgh Rugby), John Barclay (Edinburgh Rugby), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby).

Key Man: Johnny Matthews (hooker)

Young Gun: Rory Arthur (centre)

Last Year: 6th

Prediction: Genuine play-off contenders … assuming their big signings are available for enough of the season. If they make the last four they might just have the firepower to go all the way.

CURRIE CHIEFTAINS

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Head Coach: Ben Cairns; Forwards and Continuity Coach: Mark Cairns; Backs and Defence Coach: Andrew Binikos; Scrum Coach: Campbell Reynolds; Skills Coach: Niall Lear.

Co-Captain: Robbie Nelson and Fergus Scott.

Players In – Jose Matias Sonzogni Argiro (FC Auch Gers); Reece Patterson (North Berwick); Fraser Watt (Marr); Marc Kelly (Young Munster); Cal Hope (Western Districts, Brisbane); Wallace Nelson (Stirling County); Roan Frostwick (North Berwick); Gregor Hunter (Gala); Joe Reynolds (Counties Manakau / Pukekohe); Adam Hall (Melrose); James McCaig (Strathallan School/ Perthshire); Steven Hamilton (Selkirk).

Players Out – Cameron Hutchinson (Stade Nicois); Hamish Bain (Stade Niçois); Duncan Ferguson (Watsonians); Glen Faulds (Glasgow Hawks); Cameron Gray (Edinburgh Accies); Kris Burney (Retired); Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby); Charlie Shiel (Edinburgh Rugby); Harvey Elms (Scotland 7s); Ratu Tagive (Glasgow Warriors).

Pro Draft – Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby), Charlie Shiel (Edinburgh Rugby), Harvey Elms (Scotland 7s), Greg Peterson (Glasgow Warriors), David Tameilau (Glasgow Warriors), Kiran McDonald (Glasgow Warriors), Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Max McFarland (Scotland 7s), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors).

Key Man: Gregor Hunter (stand-off)

Young Gun: Roan Frostwick (scrum-half)

Last Season: 2nd during regular season, then lost our to Ayr at home in play-off semi-final.

Prediction: A point to prove and some excellent new recruits, it’s theirs for the taking if they can get their set-piece to stack up … and if their coaching team stays in place.

EDINBURGH ACADEMICALS

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Head Coach: Derek O’Riordan; Defence Coach: Iain Berthinussen; Attack Coach: Mark Appleson; Kick attack and skills coaches: David Adamson and Andrew Easson.

Captain: Jamie Sole; Vice-Captains: Callum Black and Richard Mill

Players In – Michael Badenhorst (Ayr); Nick Hall (Selkirk); Cammy Gray (Currie Chieftains); Ruairi Campbel (Melrose); (Mark Sinclair (Stewarts-Melville); Cammy Taylor (Stewarts-Melville); George Spencer (South Africa via SRU); Robbie Davis (South Africa via SRU); Cameron McCrimmon (Dundee High);  Jamie Loomes (Glasgow Accies); Fraser Lindsay (RFU); Tom Welding (Aberdeen Wanderers); Sean Hegarty (Linglithgow); Nick Stephen (Edinburgh University); Robbie Kent (Edinburgh University); Struan Whittaker (BATS); Rory Jackson (Edinburgh Academy); Scott Burnside (Edinburgh University).

Players Out – Matt Cooper (retired); Robin Snape (retired); Conor Hirini (returned to New Zealand); Luther Hirini (returned to New Zealand).

Pro Draft – Murray McCallum (Edinburgh Rugby), Tom Brown (Edinburgh Rugby), Mungo Mason (Scotland 7s), Ally Miller (Edinburgh Rugby), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby), Luke Hamilton (Edinburgh Rugby), Nyle Godsmark (Scotland 7s), Joe Nayacavou (Scotland 7s), Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby).

Key Man: Jamie Sole (flanker)

Young Gun: Shaun Gunn (loose-head prop)

Last Year: Promoted as champions of National One.

Prediction: It’s going to be tough, but there is no relegation (we think) so a great opportunity to prepare for a real tilt at the Championship – without Super 6 clubs – next season.

GLASGOW HAWKS

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Head Coach: Finlay Gillies; Director of Rugby: Bob Coats; Assistant Coaches: Andy Hill and Andrew Douglas.

Captain: Stephen Leckey; Vice-Captains: Ross Thompson and Steven Findlay.

Players In – Kaleem Barreto (Marr); Gavin Wilson (Dumfries); Cameron Symes (Glasgow University); Kristian Kay (London Wasps Academy); Kris Hughes (Dubai); Angus Fraser (Dundee); Andrew Nimmo (Biggar); Jack McCready (Glasgow Accies); Jack McLean (Glasgow Accies); Glen Faulds (Currie Chieftains); Murray Godsman (High School of Glasgow); Scott Briggs (Glasgow Academy); Max Priestly (Glasgow Hawks U18); Calum Coats (High School of Glasgow); Charlie Thompson (Glasgow University); Yousif Alagilly (Dundee High).

Players Out – Jack Steele (Boroughmuir); Brendan McGroarty (Greenock); Callum Kerr (relocated to London); Robert Houliston (retired); Andy Linton (retired); Sam Yawayawa (Cambridge RFC); Kyle Rowe (Ayr).

Pro Draft – Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Bruce Flockhart (Glasgow Warriors), Josh Henderson (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Smith (Glasgow Warriors), Brian Alainu’uese (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Lelia Masaga (Glasgow Warriors), Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Callum Gibbins (Glasgow Warriors).

Key Man: Mark New (centre)

Young Gun: Gavin Wilson (back-row)

Last Season: 9th during regular season, defeated Jed-Forest 46-0 in relegation play-off

Prediction: They’ve not had their troubles to seek in the last 12 to 18 months, and lack of depth and experience could make this another tough old year, but you’ve got to admire their resilience!

HAWICK

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Head Coach: George Graham; Assistant Coach: Dean McCracken; Strength & Conditioning Coach: David Cowan.

Captain: Shawn Muir; Vice-Captain: Matt Carryer.

Players In – Ali Grieve (Melrose); Frankie Robson (been playing in New Zealand); Greg Walker (St Boswells); Angus Roberts (Kelso); Keith Young (Watsonians).

Players Out – Fraser Renwick (Watsonians); Guy Graham (Newcastle Falcons); Craig Hamilton (coaching Northumberland University); Ross Combe (joined the Navy); Matt Landels (retired).

Pro Draft – Pietro Ceccarelli (Edinburgh Rugby), Callum Hunter-Hill (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Kennedy (Edinburgh Rugby), Lewis Carmichael (Edinburgh Rugby), Juan Pablo Socino (Edinburgh Rugby), Jaco van der Walt (Edinburgh Rugby), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby).

Key Man: Bruce McNeil (prop, second-row, back-row)

Young Gun: Jae Linton (back-row)

Last Season: 8th

Prediction: George Graham must keep them battling, even when there is no threat of relegation to spur the team on.

HERIOT’S

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Head Coach: Phil Smith; Defence Coaches: Bruce Douglas; Set-Piece Coach: Jamie Parker.

Captain: Iain Wilson; Vice-captains: Ross Jones and Jason Hill.

Players In – Jason Hill (Doncaster Knights); Rhuaridh Leishman (Stirling County); Josh Scott (Stewarts-Melville); Jack Blain (Stewarts Melville College); Rory McMichael (Glasgow Hawks); Ed Churchill (Australia); James Sloan (Dundee High); Scott Robeson (George Heriot’s School); Adam Woolfson (Glasgow Academy); Dougie Steele (Marr).

Players Out – Donald Crawford (Boroughmuir); Jack Turley (Australia); Michael Maltman (Musselburgh); John Semple (Spain); Tom Wilson (Heriot’s).

Pro Draft – James Johnstone (Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Dean (Edinburgh Rugby), Jack Cuthbert (Scotland 7s), Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Simon Hickey (Edinburgh Rugby), Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh Rugby), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby).

Key Man: Andrew Simmers (scrum-half)

Young Gun: Scott Robeson  (winger)

Last Season: 5th

Prediction: Certainly capable of making the play-offs. Do they still have that big match temperament which served them so well during their double winning season of 2015-16?

MELROSE

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Head Coach: Robert Chrystie; Defence Coach: Richard Taylor; Strength and Conditioning Coach: Ross Ford; Skills Coach: Bruce Ruthven; Assistant Forwards Coach: Stuart Johnson.

Captain: Grant Runciman; Vice-captain: Craig Jackson.

Players In – Michael Muelace-Julyan (Blackheath); Conor Young (Southern Districts in Australia); Iain Sim (dual registration with Kelso).

Players Out – Jason Baggott (Edinburgh Rugby); George Taylor (Edinburgh Rugby); Ross McCann (Scotland 7s); Nyle Godsmark (Scotland 7s); Sam Pecqueur (Scotland 7’s); Austin Lockington (Australia); Nick Beavon (retired).

Pro-Draft – Jason Baggott (Edinburgh Rugby), George Taylor (Edinburgh Rugby), Ross McCann (Scotland 7s), Sam Pecquer (Scotland 7s), Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh Rugby), Viliame Mata (Edinburgh Rugby), WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby).

Key Man: Craig Jackson (stand-off/centre)

Young Gun: Patrick Anderson (centre)

Last Year: Champions

Prediction: Their much vaunted strength in depth will be tested but they are still the team to beat – with very good reason.

STIRLING COUNTY

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Backs and Attack Coach: Eddie PollockAssistant Coach: Peter Jericevich.

Captain: Jonny Hope; Vice-captains: Reyner Kennedy.

Players In – Alasdair Mackie (Dundee High); George Arnott (Dundee High); Murphy Walker (Dundeee High/Strathallan School); Andrew Goudie (GHA); Cameron Hutchison (Strathallan School); Angus Vipond (Strthallan School); Lachlan Kelly (Dollar Academy).

Players Out – Ross Curle (retired); Stevie Neill (retired); Kerr Gossman (Boroughmuir); Ruaridh Leishman (Heriot’s); Joe Beech (London).

Pro Draft – Adam Nicol (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow Warriors), Niko Matawalu (Glasgow Warriors), Ratu Tagive (Glasgow Warriors), Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors), Brandon Thomson (Glasgow Warriors), Alex Coombes (Scotland 7s), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), Nick Frisby (Glasgow Warriors), Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors), Gavin Lowe (Scotland 7s), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).

Key Man: Ewan Macgarvie (centre)

Young Gun: Murphy Walker (prop)

Last Season: 7th

Prediction: Great result against Melrose in Charity Shield but making the play-offs would be a big surprise.

WATSONIANS

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Head Coach: Stevie Lawrie; Backs and Attack Coach: Richard Snedden; Forwards and Defence Coach: Neil Cochrane.

Captain: Craig Borthwick; Vice-Captains: Rory Hutton and Jamie Hodgson.  

Players In – Fraser Renwick (Hawick); Jack Stanley (Edinburgh Rugby partnership); Connor Boyle (Stewart’s Melville College); Lee Millar (Rotherham Titans); Rufus McLean (Merchiston Castle School); Josh Rowland (Bucuresti Wolves); Finlay Simpson (Strathclyde University); Paul Cunningham (George Watson’s College); Corann Henderson (George Watson’s College); Angus Guthrie (Howe of Fife); Duncan Ferguson (Currie Chieftains); Greg Jackson (Marr).

Players Out – Rory Drummond (Boroughmuir); Kyle Whyte Sharks (South Africa); Nick Fraser (Warringah Rats, Australia); Michael Allen (retired); Keith Young (Hawick); Gregor Tait (Musselburgh).

Pro Draft –Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh Rugby), Nathan Fowles (Edinburgh Rugby), Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby), Cameron Fenton (Edinburgh Rugby), Jamie Farndale (Scotland 7s), Glenn Bryce (Scotland 7s), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby).

Key Man: Lee Miller (stand-off)

Young Gun: Connor Boyle (flanker)

Last Season: 4th, lost 37-8 to Melrose in the play-off semi-final.

Prediction: Play-off contenders but may miss out this time in a very competitive  league.


Read The Offside Line’s in-depth interviews with the head coaches from each of the ten Tennent’s Premiership clubs here 

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part one: Murchie focussed on the here and now at Ayr

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part two: Wright wants to put fun top of the agenda at Boroughmuir

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part three: Cairns says Chieftains have a point to prove

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part four: O’Riordan’s Accies aim to play the long game

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part five: Gillies and Glasgow Hawks find new grounds for optimism

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part six: Graham urges Hawick to believe in themselves

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part seven: Smith and Heriot’s renew quest for honours

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part eight: Chrystie expects Melrose’s season to be a slow-burner

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part nine: Pollock plans to steer Stirling County back to the top

Tennent’s Premiership countdown part ten: Lawrie believes culture is key to success at Watsonians

 

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1368 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.