ACTIONS speak louder than words and for the ten BT Premiership clubs the time for talking is over with the league season getting underway this afternoon.
Four new head coaches, five new captains and a plethora of new players are braced for action at Meggetland, Millbrae, The Greenyards, Goldenacre and Malleny Park today with members of all the clubs in the type of buoyant mood that a fresh start always brings.
With many exciting youngsters and players from elsewhere in Scotland and abroad having been brought on board to bolster all the clubs’ ranks, the keen-eyed spectators will be getting to grips with all of the new faces in the coming weeks.
One of those new faces may seem somewhat familiar though, and that is because he is an old face returning. Well, not “old” as such at 26, but prop Gary Strain is making his first appearance for Glasgow Hawks in three years as they head to Edinburgh to take on Heriot’s.
Having learned his trade at Dalziel, Strain spent four seasons at Hawks before heading off to play in the French Pro D2 with RC Massy in 2011. Two seasons there earned him a trial with Newcastle Falcons and he did enough to earn a contract with the English pro side for the 2013-14 season.
He did not get as much first-team exposure at Kingston Park as he would have liked, but Strain certainly feels he has benefited from his time away and is excited to be back at Hawks.
He said: “A lot has changed at Hawks since I went away, but it was great to get back training with the guys during pre-season and we all feel good ahead of the opening game against Heriot’s.
“I have been impressed by some of the young players we have at the club now, while there is a lot of competition for places, none more so than in the front-row where I reckon there are half a dozen guys capable of playing in the first team.
“I watched Heriot’s playing last week in the BT Charity Shield against Melrose and they have some useful players. We know it will be a tough match, but we are keen to get going.”
After dipping his toe into the professional ranks Strain has not given up hope of getting there again and is currently training part-time with Glasgow Warriors.
His experience, along with that of ex-Warrior Finlay Gillies, will be key today if Hawks are to win at Goldenacre as they did last season.
It will also be interesting to see how new arrivals Erlend Oag and George Horne fit into the backline.
Heriot’s, who defeated Hawks in the Scottish Cup final in April, have Rory Carmichael at stand-off with Blair Couper and Ben Cogley making home debuts.
Reigning champions Melrose start with a home match against Edinburgh Accies. Damien Hoyland has been released by Edinburgh Rugby to play while Ewan McQuillin is also available.
Accies head to The Greenyards with Jamie Sole having converted to the back-row from full-back and ex-Scotland “A” cap Lewis Niven at prop.
On the final day of last season Ayr defeated Gala to end the latter’s title hopes so the Maroons will be out for revenge at Millbrae. The home side will be cheered on in this tasty encounter by more than 300 ladies who are attending a pre-match lunch.
Newly-promoted Boroughmuir open the season with a home match against Stirling County while in the battle of two of the new head coaches – Ben Cairns and Nikki Walker – Currie take on Hawick.