Hawick head coach Matty Douglas relishing prospect of going up against other teams boosted by ex-Fosroc Super Series players

Hawick are the only team contesting rugby’s 2024 Border League title still in possession of a 100% record and they’re hoping to go all the way and keep that up for their final two fixtures, says head coach Matty Douglas.
Hawick losing 48-19 at home to Melrose at Mansfield Park in September 2018 (Photo: Douglas Hardie)Hawick losing 48-19 at home to Melrose at Mansfield Park in September 2018 (Photo: Douglas Hardie)
Hawick losing 48-19 at home to Melrose at Mansfield Park in September 2018 (Photo: Douglas Hardie)

The first of those is at home at Mansfield Park to Scottish Premiership-bound Melrose next Friday, March 29, with kick-off at 7.30pm, and the other is away to Scottish National League Division 1 side Gala on a date yet to be arranged.

The Greens, unbeaten in all competitions since September, go into that two-game run-in with four wins out of four to their name in the Border League, keeping them on track for their 51st title.

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No bonus points being awarded in the regional competition, that 100% record has yielded a maximum haul of 16 points, leaving them six points clear of second-placed Melrose ahead of their next opponents’ game at home to Kelso tonight, March 22, with kick-off at 7.30pm.

With ten of Hawick’s players in the South of Scotland’s 32-strong squad for the current national inter-district championship and most, or even all, likely to feature in the match-day line-up of 23 for the day after’s 3pm game against Glasgow and the West at Kelso’s Poynder Park, Douglas, also head coach of the regional representatives, is envisaging shuffling his pack a bit against Melrose but says he won’t be taking any unnecessary chances with his selection.

“Obviously I’m involved with district stuff as well and there are a lot of Hawick players involved too, so there are going to be opportunities for boys to get first XV-starts, but we’ve got good depth to our squad and, at the end of the day, we’re sitting top of the table and we want to finish there,” he said.

“Melrose will be really tough but it’s at home, which is a bonus.

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“There’ll be a lot of boys getting an opportunity who haven’t maybe played a lot of first-team rugby so that’ll be good to see.”

Melrose’s visit to Mansfield Park will be the two teams’ first meeting since the Greenyards outfit’s demotion to National 1 as part of the deal that created the soon-to-be-axed Fosroc Super Series competition in 2019, their last two games having yielded losses home and away for the Greens, by 48-19 in September 2018 and 21-10 two months later respectively.

They won’t be strangers anymore, though, Melrose having been granted promotion back to the top flight now their Southern Knights offshoot are being scrapped and Douglas welcomes the prospect of an extra set of Borders derbies in the premiership, keeping the number at 12-plus despite Jed-Forest’s relegation.

“At the end of the day, it’s the Scottish Rugby Union that have decided what’s happening and we just have to accept it,” he said.

“It gives us another pair of Borders derbies.”

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Douglas acknowledges that an expected influx of former semi-professional players into an expanded premiership following the demise of the Super Series later this year – with Melrose, Watsonians and Ayr returning and Heriot’s likely to have their ranks bolstered – will make it a tougher prospect but is confident his table-topping team, already featuring half a dozen or so ex-Knights, will be up to the task.

“It will be tougher next year, there’s no question about it. I’m not shying away from that,” he said.

“We’ll need to be on the ball with recruitment to build on the squad we have and trying to improve the players we’ve got as there’ll be a lot more teams competing to be at the top of the table next year.

People are saying there’ll be lot of those players dropping back into their club sides and that’ll make them tougher to play, but we’ve got five or six dropped back from Super6 already, so we’re confident we’ll still be able to compete.

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“What happens is yet to all come out but a lot of these teams will be strengthened and they’ll be a lot tougher than they have been in the past, but that will just make for a more competitive league.

“I just think we need to keep moving forward. This will be a test and it’s a test I’m excited about and one we’ve kind of been wanting.

“We’d love to play Super6 teams and see where we’re at, and next season we’ll get a crack at that, so we can see exactly how far we’ve come since those sides went out of the league.”

Melrose’s match against Kelso is one of two Border League games being played tonight, the other seeing Jed-Forest hosting Peebles, also at 7.30pm.

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