The Premiership returns – and here is your team-by-team guide

We caught up with a key figure from each of the 10 Premiership clubs to find out how their squad is shaping up for the season

The Premiership returns this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
The Premiership returns this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

AFTER 18 months of hibernation, league rugby at club level in Scotland will finally re-emerge from its pandemic-induced hibernation this weekend with the return of the Tennent’s National and Regional Leagues.

While the postponement of two top-tier Premiership matches by Thursday evening due to Covid outbreaks in the Aberdeen Grammar and Jed-Forest camps has served as a timely reminder that we are not yet out of the woods, the sense of anticipation is undampened.

The three matches still going ahead this weekend are:

Musselburgh v GHA

Marr v Glasgow Hawks

Hawick v Currie Chieftains

The Offside Line caught up with a key figure from all 10 Premiership clubs to get an insight into how they are shaping up for the coming campaign.


ABERDEEN GRAMMAR

THE MANAGEMENT

Head Coach: Ali O’Connor (Attack and Defence)

Assistants: Iain Stanger (Forwards Coach), Greig Ryan (Assistant Forwards Coach), Jonny Spence (Assistant Forwards Coach) and Craig McLeod (2nd XV Head Coach).

Co-Captains: Tom Aplin and Nat Coe

NEW FACES

Ross Cameron: “A really exciting back-three player with good pace, hands and eye for a gap.”

Carwyn Walker: “A big, ball-carrying second-row joining from Aberdeen Wanderers. We’re really exited to see how he goes at this level.”

Evan Fairweather: “A pacy and aggressive winger, who has a great attitude and will be a real handful with a bit of space

FOND FAREWELLS

Robin Cessford: “Ever increasing family means rugby takes a break for a few years. We will miss his ball-carrying and uncompromising defence in the second-row.”

Murray Mitchell:  “Has moved to Dundee – and we’ll forgive him eventually, but we know we will miss his ball-carrying and vision at outside centre.”

Sean Mills: “Has returned to Gordonians to balance increasing work commitments with rugby.”

YOUNG GUN

Scott Renfrew: “Is really coming into a game and many around Rubislaw are tipping this to be his breakthrough year.”

KEY MAN

Mark New: “A class player with frightening speed of distribution. He will be key in joining the back division up and putting our outside backs into space.”

SUMMARY

“The squad is  eager to get started in what is a bit of an unknown season. Hopefully it can survive the pandemic and we get a good run of games in. Our circumstances mean it might be a slow start, but the coaching team is excited to see what this group can achieve when firing on all cylinders.”

  • ALI O’CONNOR

CURRIE CHIEFTAINS

THE MANAGEMENT

Head Coach: Mark Cairns (Forwards and Defence)

Assistants: Ally Donaldson (Backs and Attack) and Alistair Hamilton (Scrum)

Captain: Fergus Scott

Vice-captains: Graeme Carson, Rhys Davies and Mike Vernel

NEW FACES

Ryan Stewart: “A hooker, former Peebles RFC captain, who joined us for the 2020-21 non-season. Would have preferred to be a professional footballer like his Dad, Poacher Stewart.”

DJ Innes: “The centre joined this summer from Watsonians S6. Great at squats and surprisingly agile, he is a big fan of old school musicals.”

Paddy Boyer: “Another recruit for the 2020-21 non-season. The former Glasgow Hawks scrum-had will reprise the half-back partnership he formed with Gregor Hunter during the 2016 Club XV campaign.”

FOND FAREWELL

Roy Vucago: “The hooker/back-row has had to leave us after only one (almost full) season as his visa ran out this year. It would have been great to see such an exciting player and great guy play a couple of seasons for us, but it wasn’t to be. He has moved to Spanish club C.P. Les Abelles.”

YOUNG GUN

Ryan Daley: “Joined us last summer after coming through the Currie Youth section and also playing school rugby for GWC. He has been lighting up pre-season with his speed and ability to finish. Last week he got a hat-trick in our final pre season game against Heriot’s.”

KEY MAN

It’s hard to look past Gregor Hunter in terms of match influence. It’s great to have such an experienced and talented player running the show at 10 for us. He has had a season off to rest up and add to his game, so this could be his best season yet.

SUMMARY

“I am looking forward to another season with Ally and the team. I think the pandemic has put a lot in perspective, so this year is all about enjoying our rugby and time with each other on and off the pitch. Season 19-20 emphasised the need to enjoy every moment, when the season was cut short and no prizes were won. It’s been great to watch the players play with a real freedom in pre-season. The hope is that they continue to play this way with the pressure of league points on the line.”

  • MARK CAIRNS

Edinburgh Accies

EDINBURGH ACCIES

Head Coach: Iain Berthinussen (Defence)

Assistants: Chris Martin (Attack), Ross Young (Forwards) and Tom Philip (Specialist Coach)

Captain: Callum Black

Vice-Captains: Jamie Loomes and Ruari Campbell

NEW FACES

Robbie Kent: “The 25-year-old centre returns to Raeburn Place after playing the inaugural Super6 season with Stirling County. We’re to have him back as both a player and a person, and his experience will help us develop this group.”

Ryan Montgomery: “Another former Super6 player, with Boroughmuir Bears. He can play right across the front-row and is just desperate to express himself on the rugby field.”

Finlay Simpson: “Also joining after experiencing Super6, with Watsonians, he is an athletic second-row who will add real dynamism to the back five of our pack.”

FOND FAREWELLS

Callum Ramm: “Delighted to see Callum given the opportunity to test himself at a higher level in Super6 with Boroughmuir Bears.”

Chris Thomson: “Unable to commit time to playing rugby at present due to relocation with work. A hard-working back-row who will be missed.”

Ross McConnell: “Relocated back down to Melrose after University and will play for for Melrose Club XV.  An athletic skilful second-row who really bought into how Accies want to play.”

YOUNG GUN

Struan Whittaker: “A 20-year-old second-row who has come through our BATs youth programme but has struggled with injuries during his time with the FOSROC Scottish Rugby Academy.  We are excited to see what an injury-free season can bring.”

KEY MAN

Ruari Campbell: “Returns to our back row after playing out of position for the team at centre pre-COVID.  His leadership and skillset will be a huge asset to us in the way we want to play.”

SUMMARY

“Delighted with the squad we have put together, retaining most of our side from season 2019-2020 and adding some much-needed depth. Really excited to see rugby back after an extended break due to Covid-19 and as a coaching group we are looking forward to seeing how our players perform. We have not shied away from the fact that we must be better as a group if we want to compete at the right end of the table.”

  • IAIN BERTHINUSSEN

GHA

THE MANAGEMENT

Head Coach: Trevor Carmichael (Forwards)

Assistants: Calum Forrester (Defence), Andrew Gillman (Attack) and Iain Kennedy (Kick/Back-Three)

Captains: Michael Fox (Club Captain) and Jamie McCarthy (1st XV Captain)

Vice-Captain: Grant Mollison

NEW FACES

Will Alton: “A back-row who has joined us from Aberdeen Grammar, and is hoping to represent Hungary this month against Poland.”

Jack Bruce: “Another back-row who joins from Edinburgh Accies, he is versatile player with a great rugby mind, and will be a brilliant addition to our squad.”

Sean Carden: “A 19-year-old winger/centre, who played for West of Scotland before COVID hit, he unfortunately missed out on this years U20’s Six Nations due to injury.

FOND FAREWELLS

Andrew Lamb: “Is now studying in London and playing/training with Ealing Trailfinders Academy.”

Aaron Purewal: “Moved down south and is currently playing at London Scottish.”

YOUNG GUN

Gregor Hiddleston: “A 19-year-old hooker who has joined us from Dumfries RFC and brings a great attitude/work-ethic to the club for a person with such young shoulders. Gregors aim is to develop his game at GHA and push for a Scotland U20’s honours this season, and we don’t see any reason why he won’t.”

KEY MAN

Max MacFarlane: “Has just returned from studying in Cardiff, and will bring a maturity and attacking mind playing at centre. He will be an important leader in our squad this season.”

SUMMARY

“We are hoping to push on from our previous season in the top flight of the club game, having added some seasoned Premiership players along with some exciting young players who have come through the GHA youth section to ur squad. Everyone at GHA is looking forward to seeing what we can achieve this season which I think will be very interesting after such a long lay-off for all clubs involved.”

  • RANGI JERICEVICH (DOR)

GLASGOW HAWKS

MANAGEMENT

Head Coach: Andy Hill (Attack & Defence)

Assistants: Victoria Penpraze (Head of Performance), Alex Reid (Backs and Skills), Gary Strain (Forwards and Contact Area) and Brendan McGroarty (Backs Attack and Defence).

Captain: Stephen Leckey

Vice Captains: Paul Cairncross, Liam Brims and Callum Harrison

NEW FACES

Iain Carmichael: “Arrives at Hawks via Hong Kong, the hooker went to Sedbergh and trained last season with Stirling Super6. He has come to Hawks to challenge himself and develop as a player.”

Lewis McNamara: “A Northern Irish lad who came to Hawks via Dundee HSFP after securing a job in Glasgow. The former captain of Instonians who won the Ulster Schools Cup will look to make a position in the back-row of the 1st XV his own.”

Fraser Gosse: “Has joined us this season from the University of Glasgow where he was captain of the 1st XV. An exceptional athlete, who plays in the centre, he will look to make a real impact on the Premiership this season.

Hamuera Lee: “Travelled to Scotland to visit friends while playing in Cardiff and loved his time here. The Kiwi full-back has since moved to Glasgow to be closer to his friends and will look to push for 1st XV honours this season.”

FOND FAREWELLS

Ryan Sweeney: “Has impressed playing Super6 for Ayrshire Bulls this season, and was named Man-of-the-Match in last week’s big win over Heriot’s.”

Max Priestly: “Was also offered a Super6 contract with Bulls for the 2020-21 season, but COVID meant he returned home to live in Australia where he is still playing.”

Fraser Christie: “Was selected to be part of the Scotland Club XV squad during the 2019-20 season and has since moved to study a Masters in London.”

Paddy Boyer: “His tenure at Hawks has come to an end after a hell of an innings and he has sought out a new challenge at Currie Chieftains. We look forward to seeing him during the season.:

YOUNG GUN

Thomas Glendinning: “Joined us for the 2020-21 season from Kirkcaldy however he has had to wait to make his Hawks debut. Was part of the 2021 Scotland U20s programme and will look to impress the Super6 coaches this season.”

KEY MAN

Paul Cairncross: “Has struggled the past few seasons with his body breaking down, however the extended rest has allowed him to physically and mentally recover. His enthusiasm and knowledge is invaluable to the squad and we are excited to see what a 100 percent fit Paul will bring this season.”

SUMMARY

“In a time of uncertainty and huge change we are just glad to get back playing rugby after missing an entire season. We have managed to compile enough bodies to run two teams and lads are desperate to get back out and compete.”

  • ANDY HILL

HAWICK

MANAGEMENT

Head Coach: Matty Douglas (Backs)

Assistants: Matt Landles (Forwards) and Lee Stewart (Forwards)

Captain: Matty Carryer

NEW FACES

Rory Smith: “A 31-year-old former Hawick Harlequins back-five forward, who is ready to give the Premiership a crack.”

James Delaney: “Another former ‘Quins player. He is 22-years-old and an exciting back-three player with ball in hand. He has shown a lot of promise during pre-season and will no doubt earn a chance at playing 1st XV rugby.”

Tom Huggan: “Recently moved up from the Hawick Youth set-up and, despite missing his last year playing under-18s rugby, he has shown straight away that he has the right attitude to do well at Hawick RFC. He plays in the middle row and has a bright future ahead of him.”

FOND FAREWELLS

Ali Weir: “Has recently retired to focus on his young family and will be missed at the club, not just for his playing ability but also his guidance to younger players. He was always in control of games at 10 or 15, and kicked many points for the Greens.”

Wiaan Griebenow: “Is over in Poland playing rugby at the moment, trying to gain more experience in different environments. It would be great to see him back over at Hawick RFC in the near future as he is a great role model and player to have around the squad.”

Daniel Suddon: “Has moved onto the Southern Knights in Super6, along with Andrew Mitchell. He was a great leader in the pack and also ran the line-out to a high standard. We wish him all the best with the Knights.”

YOUNG GUN

Connor Sutherland: “Another product of the Hawick Youth pathway who has shown in pre-season that he has plenty ability and has the right attitude to go far in rugby. As a coaching team we have been impressed with the way he has settled into the squad and how he has handled the transition to adult rugby. He is an open-side flanker to watch for the future.”

KEY MAN

Bailey Donaldson: “A very exciting and talented stand-off from Langholm who now has the experience of a season in the Premiership under his belt. He has one of the best left boots in the league and has great attacking ability. He is in for a big season and I have no doubt he will handle the pressure on his shoulders and deliver week-in-week-out for the Greens.”

SUMMARY

“It’s great to have Premiership rugby back after a long 18 months of the unknown. As a coaching team, we are eager to see the 1sts and the Force back on the pitch and for the players to make a claim for the famous green jersey. Hawick is a massive club in my eyes and the main goal for the season has to be finishing in the top four by the end of the league campaign. It will be tough as its very competitive league but the players are more than capable of this as we have a good blend of older, experienced heads with a great group of younger players who have impressed so far. With a strong team of coaches and hard working backroom staff I’m excited to see where the season takes us. There’s not a bigger test than Currie Chieftains at home on the opening day which I know the players will be ready for.”

  • MATTY DOUGLAS

JED-FOREST

MANAGEMENT

Head Coach: Gavin Kerr (Scrum/Forwards)

Assistants: Scott Tomlinson (Attack), Connor Hogg (Forwards), Mike Howe (Defence), Neil Cook (Line-Out), Paulo Ferriera (Scrum) and Jon Auchinleck (Skills)

Captain: Gregor Young

Vice-Captains: Garry Young and Rory Marshall

NEW FACES

Eight players who have moved up from Jed-Thistle (under-18s): Mason Cullen, Aiden Stewart, Aiden Bambrick, Kieran Hayes, Ben Howe, Gareth Williams, Greg Middlemiss and Tom Cromarty.

FOND FAREWELLS

Callum Young: “Former Scotland 7s squad and Scotland Club XV winger has joined Heriots Super6 team.”

Finlay Scott: “Former Scotland Under-20s hooker has gone to play Super6 with Boroughmuir Bears.

YOUNG GUNS

Mason Cullen: “One of the graduates from Jed-Thistle and a former Scotland Under-16s Rugby League player. A fleet-footed winger with a killer side-step.”

KEY MAN

Gregor Young: “Another Scotland 7s veteran, club captain and hugely influential figure in the middle of the park.”

SUMMARY

“It’s clearly been a challenging couple of years with Covid-19, but I’ve been hugely proud of the resilience shown by the Jed-Forest club, players and committee.  I have been equally delighted by the younger players who have stepped up from Jed-Thistle. In trying times recently they have been a beacon of enthusiasm and showing a huge amount of respect for the club. I think we as coaches are all looking forward to seeing  no less than six of them make their debuts in the coming weeks for Jed-Forest 1st XV.”

  • SCOTT TOMLINSON

 MARR

MANAGEMENT

Head Coach: Craig Redpath

Assistants: Kenny Diffenthal (Attack/Backs and Kicking), Stephen Adair (Scrum, Line-outs and Contact) and Scott Bickerstaff (S&C)

Captain: Conor Bickerstaff

Vice Captain: Mackenzie Pearce

NEW FACES

Sinjin Broad: “A 19-year-old scrum-half from South Africa who is Scottish Qualified.”

Jamie Shedden: “A 21-year-old centre/winger who has joined us from Kilmarnock.”

Gordon Reid: “International prop who has joined us from Northampton Saints. We have been fortunate that Stephen Adair, one of his best friends, has joined the coaching staff and convinced Gordon to join us. Not a bad first signing for Stephen!”

FOND FAREWELLS

Benedict Grant: “The No8 has returned to New Zealand. He was very influential in the 2019-20 season, carrying the ball well to get us over the gain-line.”

Calvin Henderson: “The prop has joined the Ayrshire Bulls and we wish him well.”

Ollie Rossi: “The hooker has moved to Australia for a few years with his girlfriend.”

YOUNG GUN

Harry Murray: “Is a tall, athletic second-row who had a very successful season with Marr College two years ago. We are looking forward to seeING how he progresses and develops in the Premiership.”

KEY MAN

Ben Johnston: “A back-row who has returned to Scotland after working in England for a couple of years. It is great to have him back to replace Benedict Grant. He will carry the ball for us and his work-rate in defence is excellent.

  • CRAIG REDPATH

MUSSELBURGH

MANAGEMENT

Head Coach: Graeme Paterson (Forwards and Defence)

Assistants: Andrew Binikos (Backs and Attack), David Officer (Backs), Dave Flynn (Forwards and Breakdown), Andrew Clark (Backs and Skills) and Murray Fleming (S&C).

Captain: Daniel Owenson                                                 

Vice-Captain: Michael Maltman and Rory Watt

NEW FACES

Jordan Lister: “Young, athletic back-row from Dunbar who is looking to steppe to Premiership level with an East Lothian club, who has already shown that he is ready for that transition from regional to national rugby.”

Luhan Kotze: “Promising scrum-half from Biggar who was previously a member of the Glasgow Academy and is now looking for the challenge of Premiership rugby.”

Matthew McMillan: “An 18-year-old stand-off who ‘returns’ home after his schooling days at George Watson’s College to follow in his father’s footsteps by playing for Musselburgh. A talented young player looking to develop his game and gain more representative honours.”

FOND FAREWELLS

James Doig: “A former club captain who has finally hung up his boots. Well, maybe not for ever, but certainly for the 1st XV.”

Freddie Roddick: “An exciting stand-off who was a big part of our Premiership debut season. He has finished his studies in Edinburgh and is starting a job in England, where he will play for Bury St Edmunds RFC in National Two.”

YOUNG GUN

Lucas Brook: “A centre looking to make a big impression this season. Has a great skill-set and has all the potential to stake his claim as a regular in the 1st XV – just needs to show the consistency now.”

KEY MAN:

Daniel Owenson: “Plays nine or 10, controls tempo, kicks goals and is the heartbeat of the team. When our captain is on song, the team follows him and delivers results.

SUMMARY

“It will be a strange start to the season after such a long break for everyone, and it will be more important than ever to get some league points in the bag early in the campaign. We have not lost many lads at all and failed a few so the backbone of that team which finished season 2019-20 so well is there, and they showed w can deliver performance that will get wins. I’m hopeful that this year we can compete on a more regular basis, which will give us a chance of pushing up into that competitive middle area of the league.”

  • GRAEME PATERSON

SELKIRK

MANAGEMENT

Head Coach:​​​​​ Scott Wight (Backs)

Assistants: Darren Hoggan (Forwards) and Darren Clapperton (S&C)

Captain: Ewan McDougall

NEW FACES

Ben Pickles: “An outside-centre from Preston Lodge who is a Stage 2 Borders and East Lothian Academy member.”

Thomas Brown: “A second-row who has joined fro”m Melrose.”

Jack Hamilton: “A scrum-half from Boroughmuir.”

FOND FAREWELLS

Henry Bithray: “Has returned to New Zealand after being our top try-scorer during the 2019-20 campaign.”

Sean Rankin: “Has also returned to New Zealand and we will miss his versatility in being able to play in both the middle and the front-row, as well as his go-forward ball carrying.”

YOUNG GUN

Ryan Cotterill: “Trained very hard in the off season and has looked very sharp through pre-season.”

KEY MAN

Ewan MacDougall: “A back-row who always leads form the front, and gives us a good platform with his ball-carrying ability.”

SUMMARY

“It has been a very disjointed pre-season but we’re now looking forward to getting going against Jed this weekend. We’re looking to be competitive week-in and week-out.”

  • SCOTT WIGHT

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About David Barnes 2616 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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.

3 Comments

  1. Whatever happens, good to see Currie and Marr start out as TOL joint favourites. Two state school based community clubs from East and West recently turned 50 who have worked so hard in recent years.

    • Would love to have the resources to do the same for every league in Scotland – but unfortunately not.

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