The RBS Premier Division is set for one of the most thrilling finales in its history this Saturday, as seven clubs will fight it out for two British & Irish Cup places, all seven of whom will also be trying to avoid a relegation play-off!
Ayr and Gala's destiny has already been decided, finishing in first and second place respectively and securing their places in the cross-border tournament next season, while Boroughmuir will definitely drop into the RBS National League for 2013/14.
Heriot's, Stirling County, Edinburgh Accies, Melrose, Aberdeen Grammar, Dundee HSFP and Currie have five points separating them between third (41 points) and ninth place (36 points). The team finishing in ninth will go into a play-off with the runner-up of the RBS National League, which will be decided this weekend too, between Glasgow Hawks and Hawick. All seven teams are also in the mix for the last two British & Irish Cup places next season.
The fixtures this weekend:
(all matches kick-off at 3pm)
Both these teams know the magnitude of Saturday's match. Two British & Irish Cup places are still available and neither team will be keen to give up the privilege of playing in this season's cross border tournament without a fight. For Dundee they'll want to send their long-serving head coach Ian Rankin off on a high, while Stirling County welcome six Scotland under-20 players back into the fold.
Rankin said: "There is no doubt that this season's Premiership has been the best to date, with the quality of rugby on show higher than it has ever been.
"Stirling come to Dundee on the back of an excellent win over a stubborn Boroughmuir side last week and will be going all out to try to secure a second season in the British & Irish Cup.
"Our performance last week in our narrow defeat to Accies cannot be faulted but as in any game the bounce of the ball has to come your way and that just didn't happen last week, which makes us all the more determined to secure a win in our last league game of the season.
"There is no point in being concerned about other results as we have no control over them, but we do have the opportunity to secure Premier Division rugby in Dundee with a squad that I fully believe have the ability to do so."
Stirling County head coach, Graeme Young, said: "The last league game of the season and for both teams we have all to play for with two British & Irish Cup places still to be decided.
"Both sides will be giving everything they have I'm sure. Dundee as always will be formidable opponents and will be looking to sign-off Ranks' reign on a positive note. We look forward to the sizable challenge in front of us."
Stirling County team: Ben Addison; Byron McGuigan, Mark Bennett, Danny Gilmour, Rory Hughes; Stuart Edwards, Colin Turnbull; Mike McDonald, Alex Moffat, Garry Mountford, Ruaridh Leishman, Craig Deacons, Tim Clarke, Robbie Boswell, Bengy Bersanti. Replacements: Jamie Bhatti, Reyner Kennedy, Colin Hutton, Sean McDonald and Adam Ashe.
This match is round one of two for these two Border rivals as they play again next weekend, at the same venue, in the RBS Cup semi-final. Gala are safe in second place, but Melrose have everything to play for to avoid the relegation play-off and make sure they maintain their place in the British & Irish Cup.
Melrose head coach, Craig Chalmers, said: "It has been frustrating not to have a game for the last couple of weeks, but we have had four boys playing in the Scotland Club XV and a number of others got a run out for the seconds last weekend.
"Matches don't get much bigger than this, Gala at Netherdale. We must win to keep our chances of being involved in the British & Irish Cup next season alive.
"Gala have had an excellent season and will be looking for a morale-boosting win ahead of our Cup semi-final next week."
Gala team: TBC Replacements: TBC
Melrose team: Fraser Thomson; Lewis Mallin, Bruce Dick, Joe Helps, Alan Dodds; Andrew Skeen, Scott McCormick; Nicky Little, Richard Ferguson, Gary Holborn, Ross Miller, Graeme Dodds, John Dalziel, Grant Runciman, Andrew Nagle. Replacements: Wayne Mitchell, Steve Lowe, Ross Ovens, Bruce Colvine and Richard Mill.
In this Edinburgh derby Edinburgh Accies still need to fight to avoid regulation and will be determined to try to secure a British & Irish Cup place next season. Boroughmuir however, will be relegated after this match, but they are a side that have never given up all season and many of their results have been very close. They won't go without a fight.
Edinburgh Accies head coach, Simon Cross, said: "This is the last game of the season, and one more massive effort will be required. I'm immensely proud of what this young group has achieved this year. Their effort and application has led them to an outside chance of British & Irish Cup rugby next season, but we also know that Boroughmuir will want to finish off on a high.
"I'd like to wish Fergus Pringle the best of luck in his next coaching position. Boroughmuir will miss him. We're losing some quality coaches from the Premier Division at the end of the season, so good luck to all of them in their new posts. I hope clubs work hard to fill their positions with the right people."
Boroughmuir team: Robert Cairns; Damien Hoyland, Keith Buchan, Stevie Wilson, Jordan Edmunds; Ally Warnock, Sam Johnson; Nick Fraser, Mike Brown, Jonny Latta, Greg Scott, Ali Davidson, Jackson Achilles, Neil Rodger, Jamie Swanson. Replacements: Darren Miller, Kian Coertze, Ali MacLeod, Alex Henderson and Dave Reekie.
Edinburgh Accies: Alex Blair; Matt Coupar, Ewen Campbell, Iain Berthinussen, Nyle Godsmark; Ruaridh Bonner, Alex Black; Duncan Morrison, Michael Liness, Alex Allan, Greg Campbell, Tom Drennan, Dan Teague (captain), Robin Snape, Callum Reid. Replacements: Fraser Rawlinson, Chris Murray, Andrew Findlater, Johnny Adams and Ruaridh Young.
Currie currently sit in ninth place in the league, a position they will not want to be in at the end of Saturday. Heriot's have not been in the British & Irish Cup since the 2009/10 season, so will be desperate to hold their current position in third. This match has the perfect recipe for another engrossing capital derby tomorrow.
Heriot's head coach, Phil Smith, said: "After a couple of weeks off, where only our five club internationalists got some action, we're delighted to be back playing, albeit for our final XVs game of the season.
"The good news is that there is motivation for all teams involved this weekend, whether it be to avoid the play-off or get in to the British & Irish Cup spots. This means every point will count.
"So far, every game against Currie, who we've played as well in the Cup, has gone to the wire and I anticipate the same again this weekend with both teams going all out for the win."
Currie head coach, Ally Donaldson, said: "We've had three matches against Heriot's this season and they have resulted in a draw, a three point defeat and a two point win. This promises to be a close encounter with a great deal at stake."
Heriot's team: Mike Penn; Colin Goudie, Max Learmonth, Cameron Ferguson, Max Nimmo; Graham Wilson (captain), OJ Brown; Craig Owenson, Kevin Bryce, Struan Cessford, CJ Osazuwa, Russell Nimmo, Fraser Brown, Chris Mulligan, Jason Hill. Replacements: JP Ward or Nathan Borrell, Brian Morrissey, Jamie Parker, Rory Carmichael and Harry Boisseau.
Currie team: Liam Draycott; Adam Hinds, John Houston, Jack Broadley, Malcolm Peacock; Gregor Hunter, Richard Snedden; Alastair Hamilton, Ross Merrilees, Fraser Watts, Gary Temple, Simon Marcel, Mark Cairns (captain), Michael Entwhistle, Ross Weston. Replacements: Billy Elmslie, Mike Erskine, Steve Burton, Murray Johnstone and Andrew Binikos.
Ayr may have won the league, but they still have the Bill McLaren Shield and if they win on Saturday they will only have lost one match in their entire campaign. Aberdeen Grammar, as with everyone else, will be looking to avoid the relegation play-off and looking for a place in the British & Irish Cup. This match is sure to be a very tense affair at Rubislaw with neither team taking their feet off the gas.
Aberdeen Grammar coach, Kevin Wyness, said: "The rollercoaster of a season continues as we entertain worthy champions Ayr at Rubislaw.
"Ayr have been the most consistent team all season and having bagged the league title they will be eyeing the double! We're on the back of three encouraging league performances accumulating 11 match points.
"We underperformed at Millbrae earlier in the season and I know our squad will be keen to show the home support, in our last home game of the season, that we can go toe-to-toe with the very best."
Ayr head coach, Kenny Murray, said: "This is very important game for us and that has been reflected in our selection.
"The past few months have been a tense affair for our players with every game a must win. The majority of the squad have had a week or so off and returned to training on Tuesday looking fresh and free of injury.
"The payers are completely focused on finishing the season off in style with the intention of only losing one game in the league. As well as this they realise that their performance in this game will potentially affect their selection for the Cup match next week against Dundee.
"Finally, this week will be our 18th defence of the Bill McLaren Shield which the players are desperate to defend until the end of the season.
"We realise that Aberdeen have much to play for and we know that they have a good home record. Although we had a good victory against them at Ayr this year we anticipate that this will be a different challenge."
Aberdeen Grammar team: Steven Aitken; Grant Walker, Pecili Nacamavuto, Will Wardlaw, Callum Gordon; Scott Wight, Morgan Ward; Matt Dixon, Sean O'Connor, Nicki Fraser, Stuart Smith, Sandy Warnock, Greig Ryan (captain), Tony McGuiness, Cam Eyre. Replacements: Callum McConnachie, Sam Bingham, Andy Crammond or Murray Douglas, Mark Ryan and Rob Lawson.
Ayr team: Grant Anderson; Cameron Taylor, Robbie Fergusson, Dean Kelbrick, Craig Gossman; Ross Curle, Murray McConnell; Denford Mutamangira, Hayden Wisnewski, George Hunter, Scott Sutherland, Nick Campbell, Graham Fisken, Andrew Dunlop, Calum Forrester (captain). Replacements: D'arcy Rae, Stuart Fenwick, Colin White, Peter Jericevich and Richard Dalgleish.