Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


RBS Premiership 2013-14 Preview

Ayr vs Gala
Ayr defend their try-line - pic © Moody Blue

RBS Premiership action returns this Saturday. Here’s a guide to the main changes and key pointers for the new season. Last year just 6 points separated British & Irish Cup qualifiers from the relegation zone.

This year could be equally tight.

Aberdeen Grammar

Coach: Kevin Wyness, promoted from within to replace Alex Duncan.
Departures include: Murray Douglas (to Heriots), Cam Eyre, Callum McConnachie
Arrivals include: Mike Crawley (Boroughmuir) Harry Duthie (Dundee HSFP) Struan Cessford (Heriots) Robin Cessford (ex-Heriots) Tom Preece, Jamie Metcalfe, (both NZ)
Keys to Season: Will new signings in the pack up make up for loss of Murray Douglas? How good will emerging young talent like Rennie, Earle Wright, Turner and Crammond prove to be? Do they have a consistent enough 10 to bring out the best in a maturing team?
Pro Influence: Fraser Brown and Byron McGuigan could get some game time with them

2012-13 Finished: 5th
2013-14 Prediction: 6th


Coach: Peter Laverie, experienced coach, promoted from within to replace Kenny Murray who has joined the Glasgow Warriors staff
Departures include: Hayden Wisnewski (to NZ) Nick Campbell (to Jersey) George Hunter (Loan to London Scottish) Ross Doneghan (to Darlington)
Arrivals include: Fergus Scott (Glasgow EDP) Jamie Malcolm (GHA) Graham Williamson (Cartha QP)
Keys to Season: The backs remain intact from last season, but will EDP 10 Finn Russell be available as much or will he be required by Glasgow? Can youngsters Rae, Malcolm, Templeton and McCallum step up to give the same strength in depth in the pack as last year? Can Kenny Murray’s demanding standards be maintained? With a big focus on the British & Irish cup can they repeat last year’s domestic consistency?
Pro Influence: Sadly, Niko Matawalu is unlikely to appear, but Mark Bennett & James Eddie may be available occasionally although Bennett will be hoping this is his year to step up at pro level.

2012-13 Finished: 1st
2013-14 Prediction: 3rd


Coach: the experienced Ally Donaldson continues at the helm, which will provide important continuity to a squad with a big turnover
Departures include: Liam Draycott (Gala) James Johnstone (Scotland 7s, Hawick) Alan Whittingham (Stewarts Mel) Fergus Scott (Ayr)
Arrivals include: Grant McConnell, George Horne, Karl Main, Alan McWilliam (all Scotland U18) Ehan Pollock (12) Joe Reynolds (10) and E Mitchell (4) all NZ, David Cherry (Blaydon)
Keys to Season: How quickly can the next generation of exciting young backs match the achievements of Currie’s recent graduates to Pro Rugby? Will Dave Cherry provide to be the consistent hooker Currie need to replace the departed Fin Gillies and Fergus Scott? How often will Jonny Gray be available? Can Ben Cairns and Sean Cox have the same coaching impact at Currie as Steve Lawrie had at Heriots last year?
Pro Influence: Robin Hislop, Sean Kennedy and Jonny Gray are the most likely of their drafted players to appear.

2012-13 Finished : 8th
2013-14 Prediction: 9th

Edinburgh Accies

Coach: Johnny Else is promoted from within to replace the commanding Simon Cross, who has been appointed to the staff at Worcester alongside Carl Hogg and Dean Ryan.
Departures Include: Dan Teague (retired)
Arrivals Include: Ben Vellacott (Scotland U18) Neil Aitken, David Bates (both Edinburgh U), Nick Barron (Murrayfield W)
Keys to Season: How big an impact will a fit Alex Blair – who played summer rugby in Australia – and a returning Jamie Sole make on Premier 1? Will the attention to detail of Simon Cross be missed in the development of EDP prospects Farndale, Allen and Watson? Can anyone step up to replace Dan Teague’s experience? Can the young squad cope with the demands of B & I Cup involvement and maintain domestic form?
Pro Influence: Alex Black will be a mainstay again, and Scott Riddell may prove a useful utility addition from the 7s squad

2012-13 Finished : 4th
2013-14 Prediction: 6th


Coach: George Graham continues as coach, with his namesake and son stepping up to skipper the side at 9
Departures Include: Lee Millar (to London Scottish) Martin Christie (to Watsonians)
Arrivals Include: David O’Hagan (Musselburgh) Ewan Scott (Jed) Liam Draycott (Currie) Graham Spiers (Hartpury U) Rory Sutherland (Biggar) Jack Stillwell (Worthing)
Key to Season: Can anyone step into the gap left by Lee Millar’s departure to Pro rugby? Can home-grown stars, George & Gary Graham, Euan McQuillan, Euan Dods take one more step up to help Gala win something? Is there sufficient strength in depth in the back 5 of the pack to compete through the winter?
Pro Influence: Gala don’t tend to use their drafted pro players much, but could potentially call on 3 recent imports to Scottish rugby in Grayson Hart, Ollie Atkins and Piers Francis. Gregor Young, the young Jed 7’s specialist, has also been drafted to Gala

2012-13 Finished : 2nd
2013-14 Prediction: 1st

Glasgow Hawks

Coach: Jamie Dempsey and Jimmy Sinclair continue at the helm of the promoted Glasgow club
Departures include: Tom Preece (to England)
Arrivals include: Jack Steele, Andy Redmayne, Andy Linton (Dundee High) Ally MacLay (returning from Hong Kong) two Polish internationals, and a raft of Scotland and Glasgow age grade players
Key to Season: Can the young players Hawks developed last year – Herron, Yacoubain, Barnes, Redmayne – do it again one level up? Will the ‘old hands’ Mike Adamson, Rory McKay, have the hunger for another push up the league? How quickly can they integrate exciting new arrivals and create a consistent selection at 1st XV level?
Pro Influence
: Scott Wight and Finlay Gillies could both be available and would make a huge impact

2012-13 Finished : Promoted as Champions
2013-14 Prediction: 8th


Coach: Phil Leck brought Hawick back up at the first time of asking, playing wide and fast attacking rugby, exemplified in their play off win over Dundee High. Leck was invited to coach the Scottish Club Rugby XV.
Departures Include: John Coutts (Stewarts Mel)
Arrivals Include
:  Wullie Blacklock, Bruce McNeil (both return after a season away) K Manson Kullin (prop from England)
Key to Season
:  Can Leck keep the camp ‘happy’ if results start to go against them? Do they have enough strength and power in the forwards to produce sufficient ball for Rory Hutton and company to deliver their brand of magic.
Pro Influence: May have drafted the best of all in the shape of Gregor Hunter, Chris Leck, and Rob McAlpine who could all be available regularly.

2012-13: Promoted via Play Off
2013-14 Prediction: 10th


Coach: Phil Smith & Steve Lawrie continue an impressive combination with a proven track record in developing players for professional rugby
Departures include: Mike Penn (Edinburgh to Moseley) Fraser Brown (now at Glasgow, drafted to Aberdeen Grammar) Struan Cessford (Aberdeen Grammar) C J Osazuwa (to London) Brian Morrissey (to Ireland)
Arrivals include: Murray Douglas (Aberdeen Grammar) Keith Buchan, Alex Henderson (both Boroughmuir) Liam Steele (Stewarts M), Scott Burnside (Scotland U18) Robbie Tait (Scotland U20)
Key to Season: Can EDP’s Sam Hidalgo Clyne and George Turner emerge as dominant players in Premier 1 this year? How big an influence will Murray Douglas have on impact of the pack? Can the seasoned core of the team – Goudie, Wilson, Hill – build on last year’s development with consistency week to week?
Pro Influence: Kevin Bryce is still available to the nails; Dougie Fife might be on occasions. Stuart McInally may start his conversion programme to hooker under Steve Lawrie’s watchful eye.

2012-13 Finished: 7th
2013-14 Prediction: 4th


Coach: John Dalziel steps up to replace the departed (and still club-hopping) Craig Chalmers, with exciting additions to the backroom staff
Departures Include: Scott McCormack (Peebles) Wayne Mitchell (Retired)
Arrivals Include: Damian Hoyland (Boroughmuir) Austin Lockington (South Africa utility back) Todd Pearce (Australia, hooker) James Head (Lock, Hartpury)
Key to Season: Can they produce a consistent selection among their creative midfield backs that will release the flyers, Thomson, Anderson and Hoyland to score tries? Will coach Dalziel be as big an influence off the pitch as he was on it? How good can Andrew Nagle be?
Pro Influence: Harry Leonard, Alun Walker and Lewis Niven are among those drafted and could all play a significant part.

2012-13 Finished: 6th
2013-14 Prediction: 5th

Stirling County

Coach: Continuity at County with Graeme Young remaining as head coach, and a second successive season in the B&I Cup
Departures Include: Sean Kennedy, Rob McAlpine (both now full time at Edinburgh)
Arrivals Include: Ali Price, Will Bordill (Glasgow EDPs), Jamie Swanson, Andy Watt (Boroughmuir) Kris Burney, Matt Larsen (Falkirk)
Key to Season:  Will the Glasgow quarter of EDP’s Hughes, Bordill, Price, and Ashe bring star quality to the home grown County set up? Can Stuart Edwards dominate games from 10 consistently, in the way Sean Kennedy often did at 9? With another year’s maturity can home grown Bhatti, Kennedy, Hutton, Leishman etc. prove County remain the best nursery for growing their own team in Scotland?
Pro Influence: Last year McGuigan, Bennett, Kennedy and McAlpine all contributed at County. This season they may struggle to get much game time out of their drafted pro’s who include Peter Murchie, Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Duncan Weir and Henry Pyrgos.

2012-13 Finished : 3rd
2013-14 Prediction: 2nd

6 Responses

  1. I agree that is Gala’s title for the taking. Not because they have improved much but rather because of the coaching changes at Ayr, Melrose and Accies. The loss of top points scorer and playmaker Lee Millar will be a big loss but the rest of George Graham’s troops are a year wiser (last season before they go pro?) and O’Hagan has been hand picked to fit in.
    Hawick wont finish bottom, I expect Hawks and Aberdeen to be fighting it out for 10th place.

    1. Think you’re a wee bit of there Neal, I expect it to be alot tighter than you make out, and your borders bias is fairly unattractive.

    2. Guilty of Gala bias but not really sure how that translates to fondness for Melrose or Hawick?
      Not saying it will be a walkover, it should be a nailbiter. But I still think that over the season the coaching changes will affect the others and, agreeing with the blogger, gala will take the title.

      I saw a few Hawick games last season and they are gritty (some might say mean), they wont give much away, they will fight for every point and can score as showed in the play-off.

      Surprized to see currie dead last so far but Aberdeen aren’t far away…

  2. Will be good to see the result of the Ayr v Melrose game at the weekend as it will give a good insight whether or not their coaching staff have been a positive impact or last weeks wins caught their opponents at the right time of year with minimal pros being available.

  3. Will be interesting to see how this season pans out. Some intriguing transfers have been made would like to see the thinking behind fergus Scott and James Malcolm both heading to Ayr would have thought one of them would be better served at hawks or county. I’m also exctied to see how much county get to play price bordill and Ashe three very talented young players. Also looks like hawks have recruited well and players such as jack Steele redmayne and mcclymont should all make an impact. Young John brogan should also get a look in for the hawks bench at the very least

    1. John, I was going to post this comment a while ago on an earlier article for the Scotland A and U20s team announcement; sadly, I can’t post onto it anymore.
      I read, along with most of the Scotland Under 20 wider squad, the comments made by you and others, and the string of replies to them about D’arcy, me and James. I whole heartily disagreed with some of what you said, particularly about D’arcy, but I can’t stop you from having an opinion.
      Ideally, I’d rather be typing this up for the man under the ‘alias’ of “Craig M” because in his opinion:

      “I.M.H.O. we are stuck in a situation where SRU picked Rae & Barnes as 14/15 year olds and having spent so much money on them cannot “Cast them off”.”

      Delightful. It’s just what every aspiring rugby player likes to read!
      You agreed with the man in a reply, and that leads me to my question. If you’ve seen me play, which I hope you have before agreeing to those comments, what did you think? Where would you like to see me improve? I know I’ve got certain areas of my game which are fairly strong (set-piece/close quarters defence) but I’m more than aware I’ve got a lot to improve on.
      Sadly, I’ve been out (on and off) since January with torn ligaments/tendons in my ankle which meant I was not allowed to participate in any U20 competitions. I’m due to return in about a month, would appreciate a response. I’d also appreciate a technical response to my game (defence, attack, scrummaging technique etc).

      Also, are you just a passing fan of rugby or are you affiliated with a club?

You might also like these:

Craig is joined by John on the injured reserve list to have a wee look at the URC action from the weekend.
World Rugby has taken steps to ban Dupont's Law amongst three new law changes to be brought in in July.
Scotland came up frustratingly short in their final Six Nations match against Ireland, losing out on a place in WXV1 in the dying minutes. It was a disappointing end to what has been a very good, if not spectacular, tournament from Scotland. Eleanor has the talking points.
Scotland's Womens Six Nations came to a frustrating end with an eminently achievable third place slipping out of their fingers in the final minutes. Skye rates the players.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion