Fortress Netherdale for Scots

SCOTLAND A will seek to maintain their fine recent run at Netherdale when they face England Saxons at the Galashiels ground in a mouth-watering Calcutta Cup curtain-raiser tomorrow night (kick-off 7.30pm, admission free).

Inspired by large Borders crowds, Scotland A have won their last four fixtures at the venue, beating Tonga in November 2009 and securing a 100 per cent return from games against USA Eagles, Ireland Wolfhounds and Italy A last season. Another big gathering is expected for the Saxons clash.

Scotland A will have a new head coach for the occasion, Edinburgh Rugby’s Michael Bradley taking the reins from last year’s leader Nick Scrivener.

The former Ireland A and Ireland under-21 coach will be assisted by Stevie Scott (Sale Sharks) and Craig Chalmers (Melrose), both of whom are well acquainted with the passion that the Borders public bring to such occasions.

An initial squad of 15 players trained at Murrayfield on Monday night and will be supplemented by members of the Scotland squad for the opening two rounds of the RBS 6 Nations Championship (see team announcements on page 21).

The initial selection features eight players from Glasgow Warriors, four from Edinburgh Rugby, including former Gala star Roddy Grant, and three exiles, Jack Cuthbert (Bath), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors) and Grant Shiells (Newcastle Falcons). Prop Shiells, who learned his trade at Kelso, is one of four players now in line for his first taste of A team action. Edinburgh Rugby backs Tom Brown and Matthew Scott and Glasgow Warriors hooker Pat MacArthur are the others.

Bradley said: “The game against England Saxons is shaping up to be a fantastic occasion. There’s a great opportunity for our players to come together and prove they have what it takes to win on the international stage for Scotland, benefiting from the support of what I’m sure will be a terrific crowd.

“It’s about fronting up to what is sure to be massively physical challenge from England Saxons, and bringing together all the positive things we’ve seen from these players so far this season in one passionate, committed and ultimately winning performance for Scotland.”

Fans can get in the mood for a terrific weekend of international rugby by watching the Scotland A captain’s run, the last training session before the Saxons clash, in the flesh.

The session will take place from 3.15pm at Netherdale today. All are welcome, admission free.