RBS Premier A will kick-off in full force this Saturday when the country’s top eight clubs re-commence the tussle for the highest accolade in Scottish club rugby.
Currently Melrose lead the way one point ahead of Border neighbours, Gala. Mid-table seven points split Dundee HSFP in third and Stirling County in sixth, closely followed by Aberdeen Grammar and Boroughmuir at the tail end.
All matches will kick off at 2pm this weekend. Aberdeen Grammar will host Gala at Rubislaw, Currie and Boroughmuir start their bid for the title with the first Edinburgh Premier league derby of the New Year, Dundee HSFP travel to the Greenyards to take on Melrose and Ayr welcome Stirling County to Millbrae.
Aberdeen Grammar v Gala, Rubislaw, 2pm
Both teams have certainly earned their place in the top seeded club division after being promoted into RBS Premier 1 at the beginning of the season and following that up with a series of quality victories. Both teams will be desperate to kick-off the new year with a win.
Aberdeen Grammar head coach, Alex Duncan, said: “The start of the RBS Premier A campaign has a new season feeling about it and the players certainly felt that given the training intensity this week.
“We have worked on issues that came out in the Cup game last weekend against Dundee HSFP and are well prepared for the arrival of second placed Gala to Rubislaw.
“Gala are the in-form team this season through merit and we are well aware of their strengths. We started RBS Premier 1 against Melrose and were unlucky to lose; we now start RBS Premier A against Gala aiming to go one better in what will be a keenly contested game!”
Aberdeen team: Steven Aitken; Callum Anderson, Apelu Alapati, Alex Dunbar, Erland Oag; Rob Aloe, Morgan Ward; Nicki Fraser, Andrew Kelly, Richard Allen, Stuart Smith, Murray Douglas (captain), Sandy Warnock, Tony McGuiness, Greig Ryan.
Replacements: Graeme Carson, Matt Dixon, Rab Barrie, Fraser Lyle, Will Wardlaw.
Gala team: Bryce Turner; Shaun Law, Chris Auld, Alan Emond, Craig Robertson; Lee Millar, George Graham; Luke Pettie, Russell Anderson, Ewan McQuillin, Chris Weir, Opeta Palepoi, Gary Graham, Steve Cairns, Tom Weir.
Replacements: Paul Stewart, Craig Keddie, Gary Lowrie, Andy McLean, Craig Borthwick.
Currie v Boroughmuir , Malleny Park, 2pm
With this being an Edinburgh derby as ever their will be an edge to this match. Both teams are fielding their top squad as they look to start RBS Premier A on a high.
Currie head coach, Ally Donaldson, said: “Boroughmuir will field their strongest side of the season and, as with all teams in the top eight, this will be keenly contested.
We have steadily improved throughout the season and hope to take our recent good form into this match at Malleny Park.”
Boroughmuir head coach, Fergus Pringle, said: “Back in league action after the break and down to the crunch part of the season with no easy games – Boroughmuir are looking to climb the league in the second part of the season.
“This will be the third time we have met Currie this year and it will be a hard physical game up at Malleny.
“The guys are looking forward to it.”
Currie team: Jamie Forbes; Alan Whittingham, James Johnstone, Andy MacMahon, Dave Smith; Andrew Binikos, Richard Snedden; John Cox, Finlay Gillies, Colin Phillips, Simon Marcell, Gary Temple, Malcolm Peacock, Mike Entwhistle, Ross Weston.
Replacements: Fergus Scott, Mike Erskine, Adam Best, Mark Cairns, Chris Leck.
Boroughmuir team: Ally Warnock; Sep Visser, Malcolm Clapperton, Stevie Wilson, Jordan Webster; Harry Leonard, Sam Johnson; Robin Hislop, Sean Crombie, Lewis Niven, Matt Harvey, Greg Scott, Neil Rodger, Andrew Rose, Iain Moody.
Replacements: Callum Mackintosh, Nick Fraser, Jamie Swanson, Mike Crawley, Harris Jones.
Melrose v Dundee HSFP, The Greenyards, 2pm
Melrose had a slump in their performances with two disappointing losses in the RBS Regional Cup in late December and early January, but got back on track with a big win over Peebles last weekend. However, Dundee had a confident introduction to the new year with a win over Aberdeen Grammar in the Cup. A win this weekend will leave either team in good stead for their pursuit of the title.
Melrose head coach, Craig Chalmers, said: “We’re looking forward to getting back into league action again against a powerful Dundee outfit.
“Dundee are always a tough team to play against as they have a big strong pack and a physical, quick backline.
“This is a massive game for both clubs which will generate real momentum for the title run in.”
Dundee HSFP head coach, Ian Rankin, said: “Our victory over Melrose in the first half of the season will be remembered by both squads for different reasons and will give a real edge to this game.
“The challenge for Dundee will be to match the Melrose intensity as they have been playing in the British and Irish Cup and Border League.
“We had a promising return last week against a fiesty Aberdeen side, which was a good work out, and confirmed the areas we will have to improve on to achieve a result at the Greenyards.”
Melrose team: Fraser Thomson, Allan Dodds, Bruce Dick, Cammie Murray, Joe Helps; Andrew Skeen, Bruce Colvine; Nicky Little, Richard Ferguson, Gary Holborn, Stuart Johnson, Ross Miller, Ross Ovens, Grant Runciman, Graham Dodds.
Replacements: Pete Tamba, Chris Keen, David Crawford, Scott McCormick, Jamie Murray.
Dundee HSFP team: Harry Duthie; Andy McLean, Robbie Lavery, Rob Dewey, James Fleming; Cam Brown, Andy Dymock; Neil Dymock (captain), Simon Forrest, Alan Brown, Andy Linton, Richie Hawkins, Richie McIvor, Chris Cumming, Danny Levison.
Replacements: Darell Rusell, Gav Robertson, Andy Redmayne, Ross Lemon, Cam Wyper.
Ayr v Stirling County, Millbrae, 2pm
These two sides sit in fifth and sixth place respectively on 31 points a piece, so as with all the weekends clashes both teams will be desperate to get a win and gain the upper hand over the other in the league.
Ayr head coach, Kenny Murray, said: “We are looking forward to the second half of the season and for the first time this year we have a full squad to pick from.
“Our recent games in the British and Irish Cup have been enjoyable and the players have really stepped up to the mark, particularly in our win against Bristol in December.
“Stirling will provide a stern test for us this week as they defeated us convincingly in the first half of the season.
“This game is a must win and the players will want to make up for their dismal performance in the first leg.”
Stirling County head coach, Graeme Young, said: “After a long break since our last Cup game the team are excited to start the second round of the league.
“We will be looking to build on our solid performance against Heriot’s last weekend.”
Ayr team: Grant Anderson; Richard Dalgleish, Ross Curle, Mark Stewart, Cammy Taylor; Robbie Fergusson, AJ MacFarlane; Gordon Sykes, Stewart Fenwick, Andy Kelly, Scott Sutherland, Colin White, Andy Dunlop, Robbie Colhoun, John Willis.
Replacements: Craig Davidson, Hayden Wisneski, Graham Fisken, Murray McConnell, Andy Wilson.
Stirling County team: Ben Addison; Graeme Lindsay, Danny Gilmour, Brian Archibald, Ross Aitken; Stuart Edwards, Sean Kennedy, Mike McDonald, Alex Moffat, Gary Mountford, Craig Deacons, Robert McApline, Scott Swindall, Tim Clarke, Bengi Barsanti.
Replacements: Craig Robertson, John Graham, Callum Forrester, Colin Hutton, Adam Ashe.