A number of players will go into today’s BT Premiership fixtures with a spring in their step after they were included in the Scotland Club XV training squad.
Among the 28 players named by Phil Smith, the Heriot’s head coach who will be leading the amateur international side this term, were Ayr’s Craig Gossman and Hawick’s Shawn Muir.
Back three man Gossman, 25, already has four Club XV caps under his belt and was on fire in the win over Ireland at Millbrae in early 2013.
Today he will be running out at the same ground for BT Premiership leaders Ayr as they take on Glasgow Hawks after a four-week break for the Autumn Tests.
Encounters between the two clubs are always keenly fought – earlier in the season Ayr just edged out Hawks 20-18 at Balgray.
In the summer of 2012, Gossman was one of six Hawks players who moved to Ayr and he always enjoys tussles with his former club.
He said: “I learnt a lot of my rugby at Hawks and had some great times there, I don’t have a bad word to say about them. Obviously playing against them I always get a few shouts from old faces in the crowd, but it is all good fun and I am looking forward to this match.
“We were pleased to head into the break top of the table because early on in the season we had a lot of injuries and we weren’t perhaps playing at our best in some matches – we have been working hard to improve on certain things.
“Hopefully we can kick on from here in the next batch of games and stay out on top.”
Meanwhile, 21-year-old prop Muir earned five Scotland under-20 caps in 2013 and his call-up to the Club XV squad has been on the back of good showings for the Greens this term.
This afternoon he starts in the front-row as Hawick, in eighth, travel to second placed Heriot’s.
Muir said: “To be included in the Club XV training squad was pleasing. I am looking forward to meeting up with the coaches and all of the other guys and working hard ahead of our matches early next year.
“For now, though, the focus is on helping Hawick become a bit more consistent. We have had some great wins this season against the likes of Ayr and Melrose, but then let ourselves down in other weeks.
“Before the break we secured a good win over Boroughmuir, so hopefully we can take the form from that one to Goldenacre. We know it will not be an easy task to go there and win, but we have trained well this week and we are all looking forward to it.”
Hawick are boosted for the encounter by Edinburgh Rugby pros Joaquin Dominguez and Jack Cuthbert lining up in the centres.
Elsewhere, Glasgow Warriors prop Mike Cusack makes his return after a long spell out through injury and illness. He is due to start for Currie as they host Gala at Malleny Park. Another pro on the comeback trail, Edinburgh Rugby hooker Stuart McInally, is set to start for Boroughmuir in the crucial clash of the bottom two at Meggetland, when they host Edinburgh Accies.
Finally, Melrose take on Stirling County at the Greenyards.
At this stage of the season things always become a bit fragmented fixtures-wise, but with three BT Premiership Saturdays in a row starting today expect some exciting match-ups as the campaign enters a crucial phase.