SCOTLAND Head coach Andy Robinson has named six Borders players in his 34-strong Scotland squad for training at St Andrews next week in preparation for the first EMC Test against New Zealand at Murrayfield next month, writes Fiona Scott.
Stuart Hogg (Hawick), Lee Jones (Selkirk) and Greig Laidlaw (Jed-Forest) will line up in the backs, while Kelly Brown (Melrose), Geoff Cross (Gala) and Ross Ford (Kelso) will hunker down with the forwards. Hawick winger Nikki Walker was not considered due to a leg injury received last month while playing for his new side Worcester Warriors.
The luckless 30-year-old played his first game for the English Premiership side on September 15 after being hampered by a pre-season shoulder blow. Previous to that he had not played since injuring his knee playing for Scotland against Italy in a World Cup warm-up game last August.
And, while playing for Worcester at the end of last month, Walker received another leg injury which sees him sidelined yet again.
The Scots squad will convene at St Andrews on Monday for a three-day camp and then meet up in Edinburgh on Monday, November 5 to begin detailed build-up to the New Zealand match which will be played at Murrayfield on Sunday, November 11 (2.30pm).
Following the New Zealand game Andy Robinson, senior assistant coach Scott Johnson and defence coach Matt Taylor will consider afresh the squad for the two subsequent EMC Tests – against South Africa at Murrayfield on Saturday, November 17 and Tonga at Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen on Saturday, November 24.
Back in the Borders this weekend, Melrose will be looking to get their Premiership campaign back on track when they entertain Stirling County at the Greenyards.
Disappointed with his team’s British & Irish Cup defeat to Llandovery last week, Melrose director of rugby Mike Dalgetty said: “We have the perfect opportunity to bounce back this Saturday.
“It goes without saying that winning this game is a must as we head into a massive month of headline fixtures.
“With every club more than capable of beating each other and ground conditions changing, the Premiership is finely balanced and no-one can afford any mistakes.”
Gala will also be looking for a win at Goldenacre when they take on a rejuvenated Heriot’s side.
In the National League, Selkirk go head-to-head with Kelso at Poynder Park, Hawick host Stewart’s Melville FP at Mansfield Park while Jed-Forest travel to play Hillhead Jordanhill.
For more on the Scotland squad announcement, plus Melrose and Gala team selections go to www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk