NorthLink Ferries, which operates the lifeline ferry services between the Northern Isles and the Scottish mainland, will move into extra time for the northbound sailing on Saturday, November 27 . . . in order to accommodate islanders returning home after the Scotland v Samoa Autumn Test at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen.
The match will be Scotland’s third in a series which will see the world’s top two sides – New Zealand and South Africa – provide the opposition at Murrayfield in the two preceding weekends. The decision to delay departure of the Northboat, so that islanders intending to make the trip could return overnight, was taken after approaches from the Scottish Rugby and Orkney RFC.
NorthLink Ferries is a long-time sponsor of Orkney and Shetland rugby clubs and chief executive Bill Davidson said: “When Scotland last played a Test in Aberdeen – against Canada two years ago – we were happy to accommodate islanders making the trip by pushing back check-in time so that they could get from Pittodrie to the ferry terminal and we’re more than happy to do so again.
“The Test match kicks-off at 2.30pm and is scheduled to end just after 4pm. Aberdeen check-in for the Kirkwall-Lerwick service would normally close at 4.30pm but we have extended check-in time to 5.15pm with a view to getting under way as soon as all passengers have checked in. Hopefully, that gives fans enough time to get across town and on board,” he said.
Scotland head coach Andy Robinson said: "I am delighted for Scotland supporters in the Northern Isles that their ferry back from Aberdeen on the day of our Autumn Test against Samoa will leave a little later.
"There's tremendous commitment to the game in such outlying communities and if this decision helps to encourage youth rugby in particular by allowing children to get closer to the Scotland team and savour international rugby first-hand then it is very welcome."
Neil McCartney, captain of Orkney first XV, said: “This decision will go down really well. The club is in good heart just now and having our development officer Bruce Ruthven on board is creating a buzz. We are planning to take a group of under-14s down to Aberdeen and it will be fantastic for them to see an international first hand.”
Forbes Hogg, president of Shetland RFC, added: “I see this agreement between the Scottish Government, Northlink Ferries, Scottish Rugby and the people of Shetland and Orkney as an inspired and enlightened approach to this unusual situation.
“The club greatly appreciated the efforts put in by Tavish Scott, our MSP, on our behalf for the 2008 Autumn test against Canada in Aberdeen, and the club made full use of the amended service then. Northlink Ferries are our lifeline to the mainland. Shetland RFC could never participate in the National Leagues without the daily service it provides.
“In Shetland, rugby is still a growing sport, and giving us the chance to promote the game, to see an international match and still travel home the same night is a real boon, especially for the youngsters, “ he said.
• The Scotland v Samoa match is part of Scottish Rugby’s Autumn Test series, which will see games against New Zealand and South Africa at Murrayfield on Saturdays 13 and 20 November respectively. The match against the Pacific islanders, Samoa, is at Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen on Saturday 27 November (kick-off 2.30pm). Tickets for all three games are on sale now. The tickets for the match in Aberdeen are priced from £15 for adults and from £7.50 for children. They can be bought online at www.scottishrugby.org or through the credit card hotline on 0844 335 3933.