ONCE again, Gala and Melrose step out of the domestic rugby circuit this weekend in order to fight for British and Irish Cup glory, writes Fiona Scott.
After two games each, both Borders outfit sit in third place in their respective pools of four, having each won one and lost one game so far, and it is imperative that they both win this weekend’s matches to keep themselves in with a chance of a play-off place.
Melrose will be boosted by the inclusion of Edinburgh pro and Elite Development (EDP) players for their trip to Nottingham on Friday night.
Sep Visser replaces Bruce Colvine on the right wing, with the latter reverting to his normal position of scrum-half, while Ben Cairns comes in for the injured Jamie Murray.
Melrose regular Bruce Dick comes back in at 12 after a few weeks out with injury. In the forwards, Glasgow EDP Jonny Gray, younger brother of Scotland’s Richie, comes in at lock, as does Peter Eccles. On the bench, Lewis Niven and Harry Leonard are available from Edinburgh.
Melrose coach Craig Chalmers said: “It’s great to go into this massive game with a good hard-fought victory at Heriot’s under our belt. We take on a quality team in Nottingham who are flying high in second place in the English Championship.
“They have expanded their game this season under the direction head coach of Martin Hagg and it will take a massive performance from ourselves to match their physicality and tempo.
“We must believe in ourselves, look after ball and raise the tempo when we have possession, have a solid set-piece, take any chances that come our way, make good decisions and be very physical in defence. Get these areas right and we will give ourselves a great chance of winning the game.”
On Saturday, Gala face an equally mammoth challenge in the form of a visit from Pool Six leaders Moseley. At the time of going to print, coach George Graham had not yet selected his team for the game, but, despite being put through the wringer in the past two weeks by Melrose and Ayr, the Netherdale outfit appear to have remained injury free.
And, having had the undersoil heating at Netherdale switched on since yesterday, this game is almost certain to go ahead, despite the forecasted continuation of the cold snap.
On the domestic front, six local teams also have a break from league rugby on Saturday as they launch themselves into the Scottish Cup campaign with the Borders regional rounds.
Selkirk and Kelso have already played one tie back in November, with the former running out convincing winners, which means the Souters are currently top of the table.
This weekend, Hawick pay a visit to Philiphaugh, and after suffering a 37-12 defeat at the hands of the Teries last time out, Selkirk coach Brian Cassidy is looking for his team to come out fighting.
“We still have everything to play for in the cup and if we can play anything like we did against Gala in the Border League match three weeks ago, there is no reason why we can’t progress to the quarter-final stages.”
Elsewhere, Kelso take on cup newcomers Hawick YM at Poynder Park, while Peebles welcome Jed-Forest at the Gytes.