Borders rugby – particularly Melrose – is heavily represented among a Scotland Club squad which is due in action tomorrow night (Friday).
Head coach, Melrose’s Rob Chrystie, has named the Scotland Club XV side to face Ireland Club XV at Dubarry Park in Athlone.
The dark blue’s most experienced player, Fraser Thomson, of the Greenyards club, who has pulled on the Club XV jersey 12 times, will captain the side.
Said Chrystie: “If there is one player who epitomises the club game, I would say it is Fraser. He is very professional, he works incredibly hard on his game and has helped to create a really good team environment.
“He has all the leadership qualities you would want in a captain and I think he will be a great leader for the Scotland Club XV squad.”
Full-back Thomson said: “First and foremost, it’s great to be selected and it’s an honour to be given the opportunity to lead the side.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge. We have got a good group of players throughout the squad.
“It’s expected to be a tough game across in Ireland but, if we get it right, and perform the way that we have this season in the BT Premiership, then I believe we can go across there and get a win.”
The selected cohort includes players from club sides who have dominated the BT Premiership this season.
Many key figures from last season’s squad have retained their place, while Chrystie has named two new caps in the starting XV and three on the bench.
Currie Chieftains scrum-half Charlie Shiel and Melrose fly-half Craig Jackson are the starting debutants, while Ruairidh Leishman, Rory Drummond and Scott Lyle could win their first caps from the bench.
In the front-row, Shawn Muir is named at loosehead and packs down alongside Steven Longwell and hooker Russell Anderson.
Iain Moody gets the nod in the second-row and partners Robert McAlpine, while Blair MacPherson links up with Jack Turley and Pete McCallum in the back-row.
The dynamic pairing of Jackson and Shiel will both make their Club XV debut and will form a new half-back partnership.
Robbie Nelson is deployed in midfield and is partnered by Ross Curle, while in the back-three captain Thomson is joined by wingers Craig Gossman and Jordan Edmunds.
On his team selection, Chrystie said: “Our focus within Club XV has very much been on our group and making sure we perform to the best of our abilities.
“With any Irish team, you can expect a fight up front. They are pretty physical. I think we have picked a really robust forward pack who can hopefully go toe-to-toe with them and we also have a back-line who will take any opportunites that arise. I’m really excited to watch this group play.”
The Scotland line-up (kick-off 7.30pm): 15 Fraser Thomson (captain, Melrose), 14 Jordan Edmunds, 13 Ross Curle, 12 Robbie Nelson, 11 Craig Gossman, 10 Craig Jackson (Melrose), 9 Charlie Shiel, 1 Shawn Muir (Hawick), 2 Russell Anderson (Melrose), 3 Steven Longwell, 4 Iain Moody (Melrose), 5 Robert McAlpine, 6 Blair MacPherson, 7 Jack Turley, 8 Pete McCallum. Replacements: 16 Michael Liness, 17 Nick Beavon (Melrose), 18 Struan Cessford, Ruairidh Leishman,
20 Rory Drummond, 21 Murdo McAndrew (Melrose), 22 Scott Lyle, 23 George Taylor (Melrose).