Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 7th January

GHA and Selkirk lock horns at Braidholm in battle for the Breathing Space Cup, while a royal rumble is on the cards when Hawick visit Marr

GHA will compete against Selkirk in the Breathing Space Cup at Braidholm. Image: Colin Robinson

AFTER a five-week hiatus the Premiership is back on Saturday, and there is a new piece of silverware up for grabs with GHA and Selkirk coming together at Braidholm to focus on mental health and wellbeing in the inaugural playing of the Breathing Space Cup.

Both clubs have forged close links with Breathing Space –  who offer a free, confidential service to anyone in Scotland over the age of 16 experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety –  in their common goal to go beyond rugby itself and provide mental health support for their members.

GHA past president Stuart Lang and the current Selkirk vice-president Graham Marshall have been friends since they played together for Edinburgh Schools in 1975 and they have helped bring the Breathing Space Cup to life.


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“The idea of an annual Breathing Space match came out of discussions between the clubs, their committees and Breathing Space national co-ordinator Tony McLaren,” said Lang. “We are all delighted to be able to use this platform to help promote the importance of mental health and wellbeing.”

Marshall added: “Breathing Space supports people with a whole range of mental health issues. It is such a privilege to be part of the Selkirk club as we participate in a match against GHA where mental wellbeing takes centre stage.”

McLaren said: “It’s great to see the importance that both GHA and Selkirk attach to taking care of the mental health and wellbeing of their club communities.”

Following this match, GHA will be hosting an open evening with Breathing Space on Wednesday 11th January at 7pm in their clubhouse with all members, players and the local community free to attend.

GHA are seventh going into this match with Selkirk just clinging onto a play-off spot in fourth.


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With the full fixture list postponed due to the weather on December 10th and December 17th, there have been no competitive matches in the top flight since December 3rd.

The festive breaks should have allowed players from all clubs to rest niggles and head into 2023 firing on all cylinders.

Currently there are five regular season rounds of action set to be played between now and February 18th and there is plenty to play for with play-off spots and relegation still very much on the minds of many.

During the festive period, Heriot’s Blues were sanctioned by Scottish Rugby for a break of Super6 Player Protocol relating to their match-day squad selection for the match at GHA on November 12. They were docked two points and are now ninth in the standings on 19 points.

How it stands –

 

The Lowdown –

Currie Chieftains v Glasgow Hawks

Venue: Malleny Park @ 2pm

Teams –

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; R Daley, J McCaig, A Hall, K McGovern; G Hunter, P Boyer; C Anderson, R Stewart, C Ramsay, A McCallum, E Stewart, J Duncan, G Nelson, R Davies©. Subs: J Drummond, R Deans, J Rutherford, G Christie, G Cannie.

Glasgow Hawks: A McLean; S Graham, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, R Darroch; G Cruickshanks, E Davey; M Downer, P Cairncross, G Strain, S Leckey©, R Hart, Oscar Baird, D Sweeney, R Sweeney. Subs: T McTeir, E Cairns, M Crumlish, C Harrison, E Muirhead.

Key battle: Kody McGovern versus Sam Graham.

Team news –

Currie Chieftains: What a difference five weeks makes with 13 changes in the squad from the last outing against Heriot’s Blues. Most notable is Gregor Hunter being back at stand-off after a long period out due to injury and captain Rhys Davies is back in the pack. Academy forwards Jamie Drummond and Robbie Deans, from Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby respectively, are on the bench.

Glasgow Hawks: The lay-off has allowed Paul Cairncross to get back out on the paddock after injury and he starts at hooker. Ru Hart and Andy McLean are released by Scotland under-20s to play and Calum Ferrie will be hoping to impress Kenny Murray, the age-grade head coach, after a horror season with injury and illness. Ferrie starts at 12. Ryan Sweeney has recovered from an injury sustained versus Jed to take his place at No 8.

What the coaches say –

“It’s the business end of the season and we need to step up our performances, especially defensively, if we are to secure a home semi-final spot. It doesn’t come much tougher than Glasgow Hawks who turned over Hawick 31-10 after the Christmas break last season. We are getting some of our top players back at the right time and I am excited to see how we perform as a team on Saturday …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

“It’s always a difficult time for us after Christmas as so many of our guys either work in the city or have moved here for university. Add into the mix guys in the Scotland under-20s camp and having to put training on during the day due to facilities and it makes it difficult for continuity. However, the guys have been great, travelling from all over the country, and some back from elsewhere early as they know how important this game is. Currie are always a well drilled team so we know how difficult it will be at Malleny, but we’ve had a good week of training and believe if we play to our potential we will put ourselves into a position to win the game. It will come down to taking our opportunities and putting pressure on Currie for the full 80 minutes …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

Verdict: When these sides met in October, Currie won 38-12 at Balgray. The home side has a bit of a changed look to it from the one that ended 2022 while it is a boost for Hawks to have Paul Cairncross and Calum Ferrie available. On their day, Hawks can be a match for anyone in this league and they need to find consistency soon to keep top four hopes alive, but they may just find the Chieftains too strong here.

Home win.

 

Edinburgh Accies v Musselburgh

Venue: Raeburn Place @ 2pm

Teams –

Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; K Gossman, M Wallace, N Armstrong, L Wells; J Loomes©, S Broad; C Imrie, F McAslan, C Lacour, J Mills, F Simpson, T Drennan, J Sole, R Campbell. Subs: G Ratcliff, C Black, R Thompson, M Love, R Hodgson.

Musselburgh: M McMillan; T Foley, F Thomson, R Watt, S Watt; P Cunningham, D Owenson©; C Owenson, F Duraj, N McNairn, J Campbell, W Fleming, M Badenhorst, M Outram, P Bogie. Subs: R Hanning, E Bonthron, J Haynes, C Champion, C Marshall.

Key battle: Finlay Simpson versus Jamie Campbell.

Team news –

Edinburgh Accies: A settled squad with Finlay Simpson returning to the second-row. Ramsay Hodgson comes onto the bench for his first appearance in the first team squad after impressing at training over the last few weeks.

Musselburgh: The pack is relatively settled with Jamie Campbell, the Edinburgh Rugby academy player, being the only change up front since the trip to Selkirk. Injury has created an opportunity for Tom Foley to build on his appearances so far this season, he starts on the wing and Matthew McMillan returns from a niggle at full-back.

What the coaches say –

“Games being postponed due to weather and then the festive break has meant a lengthy period without rugby. I know the squad are well rested and really looking forward to getting back on the pitch this Saturday at home against Musselburgh …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

“Our attitude toward two of fixtures has been to play without fear as the league holds no surprises for us anymore. The same goes this weekend as we kick off our final block of games where every moment matters in our hunt for survival …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)

Verdict: The bonus point win at Selkirk on December 3rd breathed life into Musselburgh’s campaign. Having a settled pack is a boost for them here and Accies will know that they cannot afford a sluggish start in this one. The hosts will also still be smarting from a 41-0 loss to Hawick five weeks ago. The back-row battle will be tasty and, overall, Accies should have enough to edge it, but it’ll be tight.

Home win.

 

GHA v Selkirk

(for the Breathing Space Cup)

Venue: Braidholm @ 2pm

Teams –

GHA: C King; L Bardelli, C Lonergan, K Dixon, A Caqusau; G Drummond, G Baird; E Cavan, L Barron, M Fox, A Kerr, H McLeod, J Morris, D Ewing©, L McCutcheon. Subs: A Falconer, C Norrie, A Barnett, F Johnston, A Bogidrau.

Selkirk: C Anderson; L Ferguson, R Cottrell, C Jackson, J Welsh; Aaron McColm©, J Hamilton; L Pettie©, B Riddell, Z Szwagrzak, J Head, A Cochrane, D Nicol, S McClymont, M Job. Subs: J Bett, K Thomson, C Turnbull, E McVicar, C Easson.

Key battle: Charlie Lonergan versus Ryan Cottrell.

Team news –

GHA: Luis Barron starts at hooker and the pack has been bolstered with the inclusion of Glasgow Warriors academy second-row Harris McLeod and Jonny Morris following recent involvement with Scotland under-20s. In the backline, Charlie Lonergan returns at outside-centre and Amena Caqusau starts on the wing. Callum Norrie is also released from the under-20s and the Warriors academy prop is in line to make his debut for the club from the bench.

Selkirk: The break has allowed some members of the squad to shake off niggles. However, notable absentees are Andrew McColm and Ross Nixon.

What the coaches say –

“Following a long lay-off with postponements and the festive break, the players are ready to get back into action again at Braidholm this weekend. The squad has trained hard over recent weeks in preparation for what is an important January period. Selkirk have been one of the form sides in the Premiership this season and have threats across the park, so we will need to be on point with our defence on Saturday…” – Calum Forrester (GHA)

“It’s been good to get a break and the boys have come back fresh and energised this week and keen to get going. Let’s hope this transfers onto the pitch. We know how tough it is on the road in the Premiership but we’re really keen to push on in these last five games and stay in the top four. For us it’s one game at a time and it’s GHA away first …” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)

Verdict: GHA lost their last two games before the break while Selkirk were upset by Musselburgh at home last time out. The home side are boosted by the availability of a number of exciting, young talents and being just eight points above bottom spot they will know just how crucial their home matches are. If Selkirk have the mettle to make the top four these are the type of games they have to win –and they just might as they react positively to a poor showing versus ‘Burgh.

Away win.

 

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Heriot’s Blues v Jed-Forest

Venue: Goldenacre @ 2pm

Teams –

Heriot’s Blues: R Steele; B Evans, P Christie, O Quinn, C Robertson; R Carmichael©, R Thomson; J Lascelles, M Toward, A Bogle, C Jupp, M Keough, M Hughes, I Hill, A Johnston. Subs: D Dineen, M Bouab, S Wallace, G Wilson, I Kay.

Jed-Forest: C Young; M Cullen, Gregor Young, R Yourston, R Shirra-Gibb; G Munro, A Bambrick; G Paxton, F Scott, P Ferreira, D Wardrop, C Skeldon©, Garry Young, B Roff, B Fotheringham. Subs: J Story, A Sweenie, M Atkinson, B McNeil, O Cranston.

Key battle: Ali Johnston versus Ben Fotheringham.

Team news –

Heriot’s Blues: Charlie Jupp, Martin Hughes and Rory Steele add experience to the starting XV having been out for a while, and Ben Evans from the Edinburgh Rugby academy is on the wing.

Jed-Forest: Captain Clark Skeldon returns along with Dan Wardrop in the second-row and Blake Roff is in at openside.

What the coaches say –

“With only five games to go we are aware that winning home games is becoming more important than ever. We have trained well over the last few weeks so go into the match ready for the challenge …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s Blues)

“We’re looking forward to the challenge at Goldenacre this weekend against one of [assistant coach] Mark Lee’s former clubs. Last time out we had good win and we take confidence from that. I’m sure Heriot’s will be targeting this game and expecting the win, hopefully we can execute and make it two wins against them …” – Andrew Brown (Jed-Forest)

Verdict: Jed-Forest scored 38 points versus Heriot’s Blues in the second half of their clash at Riverside Park in October to win it emphatically 51-20. Heriot’s picked up two losing bonus points in their last outing before the break at Currie while Jed won by a point at Hawks. Having their skipper back is a big boost for the Borderers who will really be targeting this game.

Away win.

 

Marr v Hawick

(for the Bill McLaren Shield)

Venue: Fullarton Park @ 2pm

Teams –

Marr: C Inglis; J Jacobson, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff©, G Montgomery; C Sturgeon©, G Baird; G Reid, S Clelland, C Miller, D Andrew, C Young, B Jardine, C Folan, F Grant. Subs: N Wallace, C Steel, K McCulloch, N Calder, J Scott.

Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, E Reilly, L Gordon-Woolley; K Brunton, H Patterson; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, D Suddon, S Fairbairn, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: M Carryer, T Hope, D Redpath, R Graham, B Donaldson.

Key battle: Gordon Reid versus Nicky Little

Team news –

Marr: Ben Johnston, Angus Johnston, Gregor Paxton, Robert Brown, Curran McMillan and Andrew Acton are unavailable due to work commitments and injury. Scott Clelland comes back into the squad after recovering from injury and starts at hooker with Blair Jardine shifting to the back-row.

Hawick: In the pack, Shaun Fairbairn comes in for the benched Dalton Redpath in the second-row and Stuart Graham comes in for the unavailable Jae Linton at No 8. In the backs, Gareth Welsh in unavailable so young Hector Patterson replaces him at nine and Ronan McKean misses out due to illness so Logan Gordon-Woolley gets his first start for a while on the wing. There is a four-one split on the bench.

What the coaches say –

“After an extended break due to the weather, there is no tougher test than playing an undefeated Hawick team who are top of the league. They are the best team in the league and have been bolstered by players returning to their club from Super6. We are expecting to face a very motivated and physical Hawick team who will be expecting to continue their undefeated run. If we wish to maintain any chance of making the top four we need to have our best performance of season here to be in with a chance of winning this game …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

“You won’t get much of a bigger test for our first game in 2023. We have worked hard through Christmas and feel we are in a good place after our last win against Accies. We will need to be at our best to get a result at Fullarton as Marr are a tough side to beat at home and are starting to hit some form, and they are current Premiership champions for a reason. We are aware of the challenge that lies ahead, but feel we have a competitive squad and have trained well with a real focus on continuing to get our performance where it needs to be to put pressure on teams around us. It’s a massive game in the context of the league as there’s no room for a slip-up in January. It will come down to how we approach the game and if we execute what we have worked on. It’s one we are definitely looking forward to and won’t fear …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

Verdict: This has all the makings of a classic, the top side in the division taking on last year’s champions who have won their last four matches. Marr have a few players missing, but they have strength in depth and will look to their experienced players to lead the charge. This is Hawick’s biggest test of the season to date and they’ll miss talismanic No 8 Jae Linton, but they have a winning mentality just now and that could just see them through after a breathless 80 minutes.

Away win.


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About Gary Heatly 317 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.

10 Comments

  1. Apparently deduction was for playing a stage three academy player who the sru released to them and it meant they had too many stage 3/drafted super6 players (max is 3). So it must have been McKnight who was the issue?

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  2. Another question on Super 6, why did Watsonians and Heriots play home games in the sprint competition at Boroughmure’s ground, I thought that teams had to have a base of their own.

  3. 9 matches off so far this weekend

    3 away teams and 1 home team can’t raise sides. 3 weather related and 2 “other”

    Hopefully that’s all that fall.

  4. Do we know what the breach of rules was by Heriots on November 12th in relation to Super 6 protocols?
    I am looking at their squad that day and Bobby Kay, Ross Jones, Struan Cessford and Callum Anderson, who were all in their Super 6 squad played that day, plus Ross McKnight, the Glasgow Academy winger. Presumably Academy players are exempt from any Super 6 protocol? I am only asking because the following week against Marr Heriots again had four of their Super 6 squad playing – Kay, Cessford, and Jones; plus Rory Steele in place of Anderson. So if the restrictions are on the number of former Super 6 players playing then they may have defaulted two weeks in a row; if the breach is because they played a player who intends to play Super 6 again next season that still doesn’t make sense as all the players involved on November 12th have played for the Blues XV again since

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    • We are in the dark on why the sanction has been applied. It is in the interests of transparency that the governing body should provide the reason why points have been deducted. Otherwise how can we know whether it is a genuine error or something more sinister

  5. Shortage of players at all clubs is becoming an increasing problem. Scrapping the S6 competition would be a step in the right direction

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  6. Interesting that clubs with Super 6 licenses have fallen foul of competition rules. Heriots penalised for playing S6 players in match with GHA and Melrose club side unable to get the right front row subs for a National 1 game.

    Supposedly elite clubs….

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    • I would suggest this is more the fault of the mystifying regulations surrounding Super 6 than anything else.

      We should be letting rugby players play rugby.

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      • Perhaps revisit the rationale for bringing in Super 6 Alan? It was done alongside Agenda 3 where clubs would be stopped from paying players except in Premiership. The phrase was professional players won’t play against amateurs.

        Murrayfield wants its cake and eat it at the same time.

      • I agree with your point about the SRU Dom. The trouble is Super 6 was brought in with seemingly very little thought about how it would integrate with club rugby and if it prevents rugby players from playing rugby then this is in my opinion another reason why it isn’t fit for purpose.

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