HISTORY will be made next month when the South of Scotland take on the mighty Barbarians for the first time at Mansfield Park, Hawick.
And TheSouthern can reveal that coach Richie Gray has named versatile Hawick forward Bruce McNeil and Selkirk flying full back Fraser Harkness as captain and vice-captain of the South side respectively.
McNeil and Harkness will head up the squad to face the rugby world’s most famous touring team on Tuesday, October 11 (4pm) and both are kicking keen to get stuck into the legendary outfit.
McNeil told us: “It is a great honour to be captain for this game, which is sure to be a huge challenge for the South squad. It will be great for our players to have a match at this level and hopefully we can step up and make a game of it.”
Originally from Wigtonshire, McNeil, 26, made his Scotland A debut as a replacement during the match against the Irish at the RDS, Dublin, in February 2009.
He had joined Hawick in the summer of 2006 and at the same time gained an apprentice contract with Border Reivers. He moved to Heriot’s for season 2007-2008, and a full-time contract with Edinburgh followed in the summer of 2008, before moving back to his adopted home the following season.
Also 26 years of age, Harkness was educated at Selkirk High School before training to become a plasterer.
Fraser’s rugby career began at the club he remains at today, Selkirk. Considered one of the Borders’ leading exponents of sevens rugby, Harkness has also been a regular feature in the Scotland Club International side as well as the South side which was re-introduced in December 2009 following a break of 15 years.
He told us: “Playing for the South has been one of the highlights of my playing career. It is really exciting to be called up for this game and to be playing it for the Bill McLaren Foundation. For me, that says it all really.”
As well as naming the captains this week, the South also unveiled their new kit sponsor. Online rugby specialists RugbyStore.co.uk, who are based in Peebles, will be providing the team with their brand new red and white hooped kits.
Director Kenny Oliver told us: “As a Borders company we jumped at the chance to support this game and the Bill McLaren Foundation. From every South shirt sold we will give the foundation £5.”
Last week, former England head coach Brian Ashton accepted an invitation to prepare the Baa-Baas squad for the match.
Ashton, himself a Barbarian when he played at scrum half against Penarth in 1975, also coached the team in the 2010 Remembrance match against Combined Services.
He said: “I am delighted to be part of an event which recognises the contribution of Bill McLaren to rugby union.
“The squad is taking shape nicely and promises to play in the best attacking traditions of the club.”
Secretary Alan Evans added: “Our team will have players from the four home countries and nationalities further afield. As things currently stand, we should also have at least two players who are in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand at the moment.”
Wales, Barbarians and British Lions rugby legend, Derek Quinnell, will be the guest speaker at the pre-match lunch.
Quinnell played for his country on 23 occasions at lock and No.8 and also went on three Lions tours.
Hospitality tickets are £45 each and match tickets are £10 (grandstand) and £5 (ground) are available.
For more information, contact John Thorburn at email@example.com or write to The Bill McLaren Foundation, Heart of Hawick, Kirkstile, Hawick TD9 0AE.
Tickets are also available at www.billmclarenfoundation.co.uk/TheSouth-v-TheBarbarians