Stewart's/Melville swoop to sign former Scotland cap Joiner

PROMOTED Stewart's/Melville today swooped to sign 25-times capped Scotland rugby star Craig Joiner, as preparations for their return to BT Premiership Division One stepped up a gear.

Ex-Edinburgh Gunners centre/wing Joiner, 31, tops an impressive list of recruits which also includes recent under-19 caps Andrew Easson (Heriot's) and David McCall, fresh out of Stewart's/Melville College.

The latter pair are expected to contest the full-back berth.

Others with national age-group honours enlisting include under-18s Colin Goudie (stand off) and Richard Vernon (back row), both from Dundee High School. On the debit side former Scotland sevens captain Nick Penny has been forced to call time on his career through injury.

The arrival of Joiner, though, is causing considerable excitement especially as he is likely to reform a partnership with former international stand off/centre colleague Graham Shiel which flourished for Scotland at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.

Leagues kick off on August 27 with Heriot's visiting Inverleith.

Before then Stew/Mel will complete preparations at home to Edinburgh Acads on Saturday, seeking to follow up wins at Haddington (21-13) and Blaydon (19-12). Welcoming Joiner's arrival, Gordon Rigby, the club's new president, said: "With ex-A international Gareth Flockhart also returning to the back row we now have three players with professional experience passing on tips to our youngsters.

"Craig hopes to play 10-15 games and I had to laugh when he turned up at training insisting he had fitness to recover since he looked to be carrying barely a spare ounce.

"A new job after quitting full-time rugby with Edinburgh will pre-occupy Craig, along with a young family but just having him at training, where he hopes to be a fixture, will be a bonus in itself."

Another for whom Rigby has high hopes is scrum half Ross Samson whom he compares with Graeme Burns, who went on to reach international status.

"Ross, who is just 17, turned out at Blaydon and provoked memories of when Graeme came into the side from school and immediately made life tough for our established scrum half."

Further strengthening has been made with the addition of South African centre Ross McConnell, while winger Zane Gardner (Heriot's) and hooker Neil Malloy (Boroughmuir) have also been brought in.

And, with back rows Duncan Calder and Sandy Storrar returning after a year's absence through injury, Stewart's/Melville will believe they can hold their own when the BT Premiership Division One season gets underway.