More than 2000 rugby fans registered to come along and watch the Scotland squad in preparation for Saturday’s crucial Calcutta Cup match agaisnt England in the NatWest 6 Nations.
A training session at Netherdale, home of Gala RFC, was declared open to the public – and local people displayed a marvellous response, turning up on Friday to watch the squad in action and meeting some of their favourite players afterwards.
The atmosphere was hugely supportive, following Scotland’s victory in the tournament against France the previous weekend – and anticipation was growing for this weekend’s clash with the Auld Enemy at BT Murrayfield.
The English have two wins out of two to their credit so far but Scotland’s confidence has been greatly replenished, having defeated the French 32-26 despite trailing for most of the game.
After watching some members of the main squad, and the under-20s, being put through their paces for a solid hour, spectators had the chance to meet a few players afterwards for photos and autographs, including Finn Russell, Huw Jones, Ali Price, Stuart Hogg and Simon Berghan, among others.
The session was also a significant homecoming for local lad and head coach Gregor Townsend, whose career was synonymous with the Netherdale club for many years.
“The weather was good and it was good to see so many supporters,” he said.
“The players get a boost too, seeing so many supporters coming out to see them train. But when you are playing in front of a crowd, the focus just goes up.
“I am biased about being back in the Borders too – the response we have had has been great.”
The coach said Scotland had been pleased with mamny aspects of the game against France but a number of things still needed improved as they awaited England in Edinburgh.
“We’ll need to play with the same intensity and discipline, especially in the second half, but we’ll have to take it up a couple of levels,” he added.
Of the public session on his doorstep, he said: “It’s great for our players to see what the national team means to the supporters.
“The response shows the fans want this to happen – over 2000 registered, which is amazing for what is a training session.
“They’ll be near the touchline, quite close to the action, getting some autographs afterwards.
“They’ll get an insight into what goes on in a training session – the level of skill, professionalism and intensity that the players bring to it.”
It was great for the rugby public in the area to see the national team, added Townsend, while it gave a boost to the players as well.
“It’simportant we have that connection with a playing group and the supporters,” he added.
Townsend hoped the session would inspire youngsters who perhaps did not follow the game that closely to get more involved, as well as maybe giving some tips those who were already enthusiasts.