MELROSE full-back Fraser Thomson will lead the Scotland Club XV against their Ireland counterparts at Dubarry Park in Athlone on Friday night [kick-off 7.30pm], with head coach Rob Chrystie praising the 28-year-old’s work-ethic and the respect he engenders from his team-mates.
“If there is one player who epitomises the club game then I would say it is Fraser. He is very professional, he works incredibly hard on his game and has helped to create a really good team environment,” said Chrystie, who also works closely with Thomson at club level with Melrose.
“He has all the leadership qualities that you would want in a captain and I think he will be a great leader for the Scotland Club XV squad.”
The team contains former Club XV captains Pete McCallum and Ross Curle, but Thomson is the most experienced member of the squad having represented the side 12 times previously.
“First and foremost, it’s great to be selected and it’s an honour to be given the opportunity to lead the side,” said the player. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge. We’ve got a good group of players throughout the squad.”
“It’s expected to be a tough game across in Ireland but if we get it right, and perform the way that we have this season in the BT Premiership then I believe we can go across there and get a win.”
Thomson has three Melrose team-mates in the side in stand-off Craig Jackson, hooker Russell Anderson and second-row Iain Moody, while prop Nick Beavon, scrum-half Murdo McAndrew and centre-cum-wing George Taylor will be looking to make an impact off the bench.
Ayr have had a fairly disappointing season by their own recent high standards, but still managed to get five players named in the starting fifteen in winger Craig Gossman, tight-head prop Steven Longwell, second-row Rob McAlpine, flanker Blair MacPherson and McCallum, plus utility back Scott Lyle on the bench.
Scrum-half Charlie Shiel and inside-centre Robbie Nelson represent Currie Chieftains, while Curle currently plays his cub rugby with Stirling County, Jack Turley is at Heriot’s. loose-head prop Shawn Muir is at Hawick and winger Jordan Edmunds is at Boroughmuir.
Despite their current lofty third place positioning in the Premiership table, there are no Watsonians players in the starting side, although Rory Drummond is among the replacements.
Glasgow Hawks and Marr are the only two Premiership teams not represented.
The half-backs are the two debutants in the side but neither is lacking in big game experience.
Shiel was a key member of the Scotland Under-20 squad at the Junior World Championships last summer, scoring a sensational match-winning try in their crucial 24-17 victory over Australia which secured a highest ever fifth place finish; and he has been training with the senior Scotland squad this week.
Jackson was a member of the national under-20s set-up back in 2011 and had a period playing semi-pro and full-time pro In England before returning to his native Melrose at the start of last season, and has been a key figure as the side have consolidated their position as the Premiership’s standard-bearers this season.
“Our focus within the Club XV has very much been on our group and making sure we perform to the best of our abilities,” said Chrystie. “With any Irish team, you can expect a fight up front. They are pretty physical.”
“I think we have picked a really robust forward pack who can hopefully go toe-to-toe with them and we also have a back-line who will take any opportunities that arise.”
Scotland Club XV team to play Ireland Club XV at Dubarry Park, Athlone this Friday (kick-off 7.30pm) –
15. Fraser Thomson CAPTAIN (Melrose)
14. Jordan Edmunds (Boroughmuir)
13. Ross Curle (Stirling County)
12. Robbie Nelson (Currie Chieftains)
11. Craig Gossman (Ayr)
10. Craig Jackson (Melrose)
9. Charlie Shiel (Currie Chieftains)
1. Shawn Muir (Hawick)
2. Russel Anderson (Melrose)
3. Steven Longwell (Ayr)
4. Iain Moody (Melrose)
5. Robert McAlpine (Ayr)
6. Blair MacPherson (Ayr)
7. Jack Turley (Heriot’s)
8. Pete McCallum (Ayr)
16. Michael Liness (Heriot’s)
17. Nick Beavon (Melrose)
18. Struan Cessford (Heriot’s)
19. Ruairidh Leishman (Stirling County)
20. Rory Drummond (Watsonians)
21. Murdo McAndrew (Melrose)
22. Scott Lyle (Ayr)
23. George Taylor (Melrose)