Club by Club: The 2015/16 BT Rugby Premiership
SCOTTISH club rugby’s top-flight season is well under way. Here’s what you need to know about the teams.
We have looked at all the key players and a prediction for the season.
Head coach: Calum Forrester – a young coach with a bright future.
Captain: Ross Curle – his experience will be key after Dean Kelbrick’s retirement.
Key player: Grant Anderson – a quality operator at full-back, who creates a lot.
Last season: Second in league, lost in the play-off semis. Annoyed to lose last-four match at home.
Overview: Ayr had a strong season in 2014/15 and have made some quality signings for the coming campaign, such as the return of Frazier Climo and the arrival of Haddon McPherson and Steven Longwell, so they should comfortably make the top four
Prediction: Third and into play-offs.
Head coach: Bruce Aitchison – a great man manager who gets the most from his players.
Captain: Andy Rose – a Zimbabwe international who leads by example.
Key player: Alex Cox – back from long-term injury and a quality operator at centre.
Last season: Eighth – a good late run saw them stay up in their first season back in the top flight.
Overview: The arrivals of Callum Reid and Craig Bachurzewski will bolster the pack, as will the return of former pro Sean Crombie. Alex Cox will need to provide a cutting edge behind the scrum, while Jordan Edmunds is a threat.
Head coach: Ben Cairns – a determined character who learnt a lot in New Zealand over the summer.
Captain: Ross Weston – one of the most consistent performers in the top flight over the last seven years.
Key player: Ben Robbins – Scotland under-20 cap has bags of potential.
Last season: Fourth in the league, lost in the play-off semis. Did well to make the play-offs and on their day were a match for anyone.
Overview: Ben Cairns has a good balance of youth and experience in his squad. They still have the forward power led by the likes of John Cox and Ross Weston, but now have threats out wide in Ben Robbins and Ruaraidh Smith.
Head coach: George Graham – former Scotland cap who will have been frustrated last term.
Captain: Chris Weir – the brother of Doddie, has lots of experience wearing the maroon jersey.
Key player: George Graham junior – a combative scrum-half who makes Gala tick.
Last season: Fifth – a horror run in the second half of the season saw them miss out on the top four.
Overview: It all went wrong for Gala in the latter part of 2014/15 and it is unlikely head coach George Graham will let that be repeated. Perhaps still lack strength in depth of the top three, but useful additions to the pack made, especially Chris Keen and Matty Carryer.
Prediction: Fourth and into play-offs.
Head coaches: Gary Mercer and Peter Laverie – Mercer has a lot of pro experience, while Laverie knows the club game inside out.
Captain: Brendan McGroarty – fine season last year in the centres and will be keen for more of the same.
Key player: Finlay Gillies – the former Scotland Sevens cap brings energy and quality to the back-row.
Last season: Seventh.
Overview: It will be interesting to see how Mercer and Laverie work together. They will look to build their season on solid defence as Hawks are always hard to break down. Finlay Gillies and George Horne make them tick.
Player/head coach: Nikki Walker – enjoying the challenge of moving from the pro game to coaching.
Captain: Bruce McNeil – like Ross Weston at Currie, a consistent performer over a number of years and a good ball carrier.
Key player: Ross Graham – Scotland U20 hooker highly rated by many, including Edinburgh’s Alan Solomons.
Last season: Sixth – enjoyed some cracking mid-season form to push for top four, but just missed out.
Overview: Last year Hawick really pushed on and showed they can mix it with the top sides, now the challenge is to push on. Nicky Little and Craig Charters will add more quality in the pack while they have high hopes for South African centre Wiann Griebenhow.
Head coach: Phil Smith – last year’s coach of the year has added to his squad well.
Captain: Jack Turley – the big New Zealander is quietly spoken, but seems a solid leader and a determined character.
Key player: Struan Dewar – having returned from the Scotland Sevens set-up he could light up the league in the coming campaign.
Last season: First in the league, won the title. A dramatic ending saw them defeat Melrose in the Grand Final, but they were the best side throughout the year.
Overview: When you are the champions everyone wants to beat you and that will be the challenge for Heriot’s. They have augmented the squad well, especially in the pack, and they will once again be challenging for honours.
Prediction: Second and into the play-offs.
Head coach: John Dalziel – a man keen to go far in coaching, has grown into the role well in recent years.
Captain: Bruce Colvine – a scrum-half who played for a spell in New Zealand last year, the local lad will be keen to do well.
Key player: Jason Baggott – reports suggest that the South African stand-off will bring real quality to the league.
Last season: Third, lost out in the Grand Final – looked like they were going to retain their title only for a last-gasp Heriot’s try.
Overview: Melrose were not far away last year and the quality they have added to the squad shows they will be hard to beat in 2015/16. Jason Baggott, Nyle Godsmark, Jamie Bhatti and Ally Miller in particular are exciting arrivals.
Prediction: First and into play-offs.
Head coach: Peter Wright – the former Scotland prop will be looking forward to the top-flight challenge.
Captain: Ross Nixon – has been at the club for a number of years and will be honoured to be leading them after promotion.
Key player: Josh Welsh – the full-back had a great year in BT National League One last term. Interesting to see how he goes in the top flight.
Last season: First in BT National League One, promoted. An amazing unbeaten season.
Overview: Selkirk know that the step up to this level will be big, but it is pleasing to see that they have stuck by the core of the group that got them here. Peter Wright is a canny operator and he will get the best out of the players, while Philiphaugh is a tricky place for visiting sides to go.
Head coach: David Adamson – new challenge for the man who has done so well with Edinburgh University.
Captain: Selected on game-by-game basis – Struan Robertson, last year’s skipper, is leading them in today’s opening fixture.
Key player: Danny Gilmour – the former Scotland age-grade cap is a strong presence in the midfield for County.
Last season: Ninth – started well including a win over Melrose, but slipped away and had to beat GHA in a play-off to stay up.
Overview: With a new head coach in place and having lost key players such as Fraser Lyle, Archie Russell and Ali Price, County know they will need to get off to a good start. Some talented youngsters and they do tend to punch above their weight at times.