SEVENTEEN Edinburgh Rugby, Glasgow Warriors and Scotland Sevens professionals have been released to play in the RBS Premiership this afternoon.
Since the “pro draft” system came into being a few seasons ago there cannot have been a day when so many have been on show in the top flight of our club game.
Of course, depending on injuries sustained by others in the Glasgow Warriors match last night there could yet be some late call-offs. However, for those of us who follow club rugby week in, week out it is great to see those pros who are not required by their employers linking up with their draft clubs – some believing it does not seem to happen often enough.
Having the likes of Glasgow No 8 Josh Strauss lining up for Aberdeen Grammar and his team-mate Tom Ryder in the second-row for Stirling County can only help swell crowds and interest in the club game.
Leaders Melrose will have Scotland Sevens man Mark Robertson starting on the wing as they prepare to host Glasgow Hawks at the Greenyards.
After last week’s superb second-half showing at Millbrae to see off Ayr, spirits have been high in John Dalziel’s squad this week. South African Austin Lockington, who has made a solid start to his career at the club, switches from wing to full-back with captain Fraser Thomson missing out through injury.
Off the bench they are also likely to call on Scotland Sevens forward Struan Dewar and Edinburgh hooker Alun Walker, the latter returning from injury.
Head coach Dalziel said: “Delighted as we were last weekend with the win we are under no illusions as to where we still need to improve. We have had total focus on these areas this week as we prepare for what needs to be another huge performance against a dangerous Hawks side.”
After defeating Hawick last week to get their first win since returning to the top flight, Hawks have Scotland prop Jon Welsh starting for them alongside Warriors team-mate Finlay Gillies at hooker. Hawks co-coach Jamie Dempsey said: “Game three of the league promises to be our toughest challenge so far and we are excited to see how well we can perform against the league leaders.”
Edinburgh Accies, in second, host Hawick at Raeburn Place. They have so far recorded wins over Hawks and Aberdeen Grammar, both by a point, to get new head coach Jonny Else’s reign off to the perfect start.
Hawick head up the road to the capital still looking for their first win, with Scotland Sevens squad member James Johnstone teaming up in the centre with Lee Armstrong.
Bottom side Currie are handed a massive boost for their trip to Ayr with the return of key back-rowers Ross Weston and Mark Cairns. Ayr have playmaker Finn Russell, a Glasgow EDP member, back to start at No 10 after a summer playing in New Zealand.
Gala host Aberdeen Grammar at Netherdale and Graham Speirs starts his first match since returning from time down south at Hartpury College.
Grammar, as mentioned, are boosted by the inclusion of Strauss for the long road trip while Alex Ratcliffe and Callum Harvey start for the first time.
Stirling County host Heriot’s in what should be an entertaining encounter at Bridgehaugh after both teams won last week. County head coach Graeme Young said: “Heriot’s turned us over last year at home and we look forward to this year’s challenge and welcoming them to Bridgehaugh.”