Watsonians v Heriot’s is the big draw as Premiership kicks-off

Heriot's head coach Phil Smith

Heriot's head coach Phil Smith

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Heriot’s coach Phil Smith believes the revival of one of Edinburgh’s traditional local skirmishes will merit a sizeable crowd when his players launch the defence of the BT Premiership title away to promoted rivals Watsonians tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).

Looking ahead to the league opener, Smith said: “I really hope the rekindling of this old rivalry brings out a few bodies who are not sure what to do now the Olympics are over.

“Two league champions on show and a local derby make this a really exciting start to the new season. Watsonians have recruited very well and have put together a more competitive pack to complement an already exciting back division.”

Smith lists debutants Callum Marshall, Gavin Parker and Alex Hagart in his side as Heriot’s bid to avoid repeating the slow start that has marked the opening weeks of their campaigns in recent seasons.

In the home camp, tomorrow’s showdown offers coach Marcus Di Rollo an opportunity to assess the readiness of his players for the greater intensity that is a feature of the top flight. The hosts field six of the club’s summer signings, with two more starting on the bench and Di Rollo said: “We are all looking forward to this. The guys have worked hard in training. Heriot’s won everything last season and we know it will be tough, but we will give it our all.”

Meanwhile, Currie, who finished last season’s regular programme strongly but bowed out at the play-off stage, face a tough opening-day assignment with a trip to face last year’s runners up Ayr.

Coach Ben Cairns, who has seen his side improve in each of the past two seasons, is relishing the challenge.

“The draw could not have thrown up a sterner test than Ayr away as we embark on another league campaign,” he said. “However, we are looking forward to testing ourselves against the most consistent team from last season.”

Cairns hands a competitive debut to Irishman Matthew Hooks, now a student in the Capital, and welcomes back three familiar faces in the form of Fergus Scott at hooker, stand-off Jamie Forbes and flanker Rhys Davies who have been away from the club for several seasons.

Boroughmuir coach Peter Wright takes his new charges to the Greenyards to face a Melrose side buoyed by lifting the first silverware of the season with a comprehensive win over Heriot’s in last week’s BT Charity Shield.

Wright, who played for the Melrose side that won the title in 1997, expects a tough afternoon for a relatively inexperienced pack against a Melrose eight that includes Edinburgh pros Nick Beavon and Lewis Carmichael, as well as former Muir man Iain Moody.

However, the coach is ready for the test. “It’s a great match to start the new season, with Melrose I’m sure on a high after winning the community shield last week,” said Wright. “It’s never an easy play to go but the players and coaching staff are looking forward to the challenge.”