Hawick hit hard by loss of Little as teams rebuild

EDINBURGH'S released fly-half, Rory Hutton, has returned to his former trade as an electrician and old stamping ground of Hawick, but the Borders club is unhappy at losing a youngster heading in the opposite direction.

Back in the top flight after a first season in Premier Two, Hawick have persuaded Greg Cottrell to return to Mansfield Park from Boroughmuir, 18-year-old Stuart Hogg to come back from Heriot's and Lindsay Gibson and Nick Mactaggart to return from Melrose. They will join Hutton, who lost out to Alex Blair in the race for a full-time Edinburgh contract, but is the club's new vice-captain alongside skipper Bruce McNeil, another who was on Edinburgh's books briefly.

However, Hawick have lost Nicky Little, a teenage prop who returned from the Scotland under-20s World Cup to reveal he was leaving for Melrose. Hogg and Little are in the SRU's academy system - now renamed the elite player development squad - Little attached to Edinburgh and Hogg snapped up by Glasgow.

Hawick club secretary John Thorburn told The Scotsman: "We're working hard to persuade boys to come to us now that we're back in Premier One, and the key to our signings is that they are Hawick boys because that has very much been the strength of the club in the past.

"It is very disappointing, though, to lose one like Nicky who has come right through our system from about the age of seven, especially when he's not needing to go to another club to improve his chances with the SRU because he's already in the elite player development system. We're disappointed with the SRU, to be frank, but they tell us that it's for the player to choose where he plays and so it's Nicky's choice to go to Melrose.

"We're being asked by supporters why a good young Hawick boy is off to one of our biggest rivals, when others are prepared to travel down every week from Edinburgh and elsewhere to play, but it's a difficult one to answer.

"The good thing is that there is a lot of excitement and optimism around the club with us being back in Premier One and the new coaches Derek Armstrong and 'Rocky' Johnstone are very pleased with the squad and the attitude to pre-season training. We have a tough start to the league programme, but we're looking forward to it now."

Hawick will mark their return to the top division with an opening match on 21 August against reigning Scottish Cup champions Ayr and then face Melrose in their next home game. The Millbrae club have added to their already-enviable forward strength by signing Nick Cox, the former England U21 cap and Glasgow Hawks captain, and Dean Stewart, brother of Kiwi centre Mark.