SCOTLAND club international duo Ross Curle and Dan Kelbrick return to the Ayr backline as they prepare to host the Cornish Pirates in the British & Irish Cup this afternoon.
Ayr lost their Pool Six opener in Jersey seven days ago, two red cards not helping their cause as they eventually went down 28-16 after battling hard.
However, Millbrae is a notoriously tough venue for visiting teams and with what is likely to be a big crowd behind them Ayr will be confident of pushing the Pirates close.
Curle comes in at stand-off with Finn Russell being rested while South African-born Kelbrick wears 12 and teams up with Robbie Fergusson in the midfield. Glasgow Warriors back-row James Eddie has been made available by the pro side and starts while Nick Cox and Graham Fisken gain places on the bench.
Ayr head coach Peter Laverie said: “The players are very much looking forward to this home tie after last week’s heroics in Jersey and what proved a frustrating encounter.
Despite playing with 13 men for 52 minutes we showed what kind of rugby we can play and I was proud of their performance.
“This event really tests the players, but it is great for their development and learning and I look forward to the day when all the Premiership clubs get to compete in a cross-border competition. We will have to deal with the physical intensity, defend well and keep our game speed up, but that’s the challenge and the players will be desperate to have a go.”
Greene King IPA English Championship outfit Cornish Pirates, who will have Scots Neale Patrick and Ben Prescott in their pack today, have a good record in the competition over the years.
They won the inaugural event in 2009/10, reached the semi-finals in 2010/11 and lost out in the quarter-final last year. Last week they defeated Ulster Ravens 34-17 in their opening tie.
Stirling County’s young team are continuing their learning curve with a home match against another English side, Plymouth Albion, at Bridgehaugh.
Like Ayr they lost on the opening weekend, 39-8 at Munster A, but head coach Graeme Young was extremely proud of his team’s showing.
For today’s Pool Four encounter they will look to summon up memories of their first-ever win in the cross-border event just over a year ago when they defeated Neath 40-25.
That day Sean Kennedy, now with Edinburgh Rugby, scored two tries with other young players such as 18-year-old centre Archie Russell keen to be the next hero.
Former Falkirk duo Kris Burney and Matt Larsen earn starts in the pack at prop and second-row respectively while Glasgow Warriors and Scotland scrum-half Henry Pyrgos is on the bench.
There is likely to be a big crowd in Richmond as London Scottish take on Edinburgh Accies in Pool Two. The visitors travelled south yesterday morning by train, accompanied by many supporters, having learnt a great deal from last week’s opening loss to Pontypridd.
Young talents Jamie Farndale and Chris Dean come into the Accies backline while Ruairidh Bonner takes the number 10 jersey with Alex Blair out injured.
The pack remains the same while Edinburgh Rugby EDP Alex Toolis, a Scottish-qualified second row recently arrived from Australia, could see action from the bench.
The home side will be wearing their new tartan tops for the occasion.
Tomorrow afternoon Gala face a tough test in Yorkshire against Leeds Carnegie in Pool Five. Head coach George Graham gives his sons, George junior and Gary, starts after they each did well off the bench last week.
British & Irish Cup squads:
Ayr (v Cornish Pirates in Pool Six at Millbrae at 3pm today): G Anderson; C Gossman, R Fergusson, D Kelbrick, R Dalgleish; R Curle, P Jericevich; D Mutamangira, D Young, G Hunter, S Sutherland, G Williamson, J Eddie, C Templeton, P McCallum. Subs: S Fenwick, N Cox, D Rae, G Fisken, M McConnell, K Gossman, D McCluskey.
Stirling County (v Plymouth Albion in Pool Four at Bridgehaugh at 3pm today): B Addison; G Lindsay, A Russell, R Hogg, R Hughes; S Edwards, AJ McFarlane; J Bhatti, R Kennedy, K Burney, M Larsen, T Ryder, S Robertson, A Ashe, W Bordill. Subs: A Moffat, J Bhatti, S McDonald, J Swanson, R Leishman, J Hope, H Pyrgos.
Edinburgh Accies (v London Scottish in Pool Two at Richmond Athletic Ground at 3pm today): J Sole; N Godsmark; C Dean, I Bertinussen, J Farndale; R Bonner, A Black; A Allan, M Liness, P Cringle, G Campbell, J McCarthy, R Snape, C Reid, H Watson. Subs: D Morrison, S Strudwick, A Toolis, T Stuart, M Campbell, S Evans, S Pecqueur.
London Scottish (v Edinburgh Accies in Pool Two at Richmond Athletic Ground at 3pm today): J Thompson; J Love, O Grove, A Reay, P Homan; D Newton, J Stevenson; M Irish, L Calder, E Fry, T Hotson, P Spivey, B Russell, M Bright, T Spinks. Subs: T Stagg, N Mayhew, T Francis, M Everard, M Doneghan, B Pattenden, PJ Gidlow.
Gala (v Leeds Carnegie in Pool Five at Clifton Park, York at 2.30pm tomorrow): G Speirs; C Robertson, C Auld, A Emond, G Somerville; G Mein, George Graham; R Sutherland, C Mackintosh, J Hilterbrand, C Weir, O Palepoi, Gary Graham, T Weir, S Cairns. Subs: R Anderson, L Bertram, C Borthwick, R Todd, G Hart, E Scott, A McLean.
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