Ayr vow to lead BT Premiership from front again

The Premier League captains line up ahead of the new season. Picture: SNS/SRU.

The Premier League captains line up ahead of the new season. Picture: SNS/SRU.

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There are some new coaches, a raft of new players at all ten clubs and a general optimism about the season ahead as 
the BT Premiership gets underway this afternoon.

Five matches take place on the opening day with action at Millbrae, Netherdale, Myreside, Bridgehaugh and The Greenyards.

At Millbrae, Ayr, who 
finished in top spot after the regular season last year only to lose out in the play-off final to eventual champions Heriot’s, are in determined mood.

Their head coach Calum 
Forrester spent a few weeks in New Zealand over the summer with Glasgow Warriors’ Mike Blair on the Macphail coaching scholarship. That spell learning from the best coaches at Super Rugby side the Crusaders has left him buzzing ahead of this campaign and he is pleased with the squad he has at his disposal.

They have lost experienced heads such as Graham Fisken and Andrew Dunlop, but last year’s player of the year Pete McCallum trained with the Warriors in pre-season and will lead their pack well.

Craig Gossman and new recruit Jamie Bova are exciting back-three players and Forrester said: “At the time of course the guys were gutted to lose out in the final last year, but they have had a good summer break and are now refreshed and good to go again.

“We have a good core to the team and I am looking forward to seeing how some of the young players do in the coming months.”

The visitors on the opening day are Currie and, like Ayr, they have a young head coach at the helm who many think has the potential to progress up the coaching ladder.

Ben Cairns is an astute 
character and although he has lost key men such as James Semple and Matt Goodwin he has brought in quality replacements in the shape of Jamie Forbes and Fergus Scott.

Gala just escaped the drop last year after a play-off win over Marr and co-coaches Chris Dalgleish and Opeta Palepoi, the ex-Samoa second-row, are now at the helm.

Big losses for them are back-row Euan Dods and scrum-half George Graham, but they have former pro Gregor Hunter at stand-off now and he will be pivotal to all they do this season.

Their skipper is full-back Graham Speirs and he said: “We put last season to bed straight after the play-off and the group of guys that are here now are determine to do the club proud. I am chuffed to have been made captain and see it as a real honour.”

Glasgow Hawks are the visitors to Netherdale and they have the youngest head coach in the league in the shape 
of ex-Scotland Sevens man Finlay Gillies.

The 27-year-old is not daunted by the task and, along with assistant Colin Gregor, he has embraced the challenge.

Back-row Tommy Spinks, after a few years in pro rugby, could be a big player for them, and watch out for Matt Fagerson, the younger brother of Scotland’s Zander.

At Myreside, Watsonians play their first top-flight match since 2011 against Heriot’s.

Watsonians’ head coach Marcus Di Rollo has given starts to seven new arrivals including former Scotland Club XV hooker Sean Crombie.

Euan Dods (ex-Gala) will 
also have a big part to play if they are to get off to a winning start.

Heriot’s lost the BT Charity Shield to Melrose last week and despite losing a few key men they have a shrewd coaching team in the shape of Phil Smith and Steve Lawrie. Liam Steele and John Semple are back to strengthen the midfield area.

Hawick travel to Stirling County with Darcy Graham, who scored a superb try for Scotland under-20s against Australia, on the wing.

He will be one to watch in 
the opening weeks as will County’s second-row pairing of Callum Hunter-Hill and Adam Sinclair who both have great potential.

After the BT Charity Shield victory eight days ago, 
Melrose are on a high for the home match against 
Boroughmuir.

They have pros Nick Beavon and Lewis Carmichael released by Edinburgh Rugby while winger Austin Lockington looked dangerous against Heriot’s.

The match is Peter Wright’s first in charge of Boroughmuir and he has been happy with the application shown by his charges in pre-season.

All matches are at 3pm.

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