Heriot’s coach Phil Smith has handed several fringe men the chance to use tomorrow’s second leg of the Italian-Scottish Challenge at Goldenacre (2.15pm) to force their way into the side when the BT Premiership campaign resumes next month.
Smith offered a similar opportunity to a clutch of players in the first meeting with the Emerging Italian XV in Biella last Friday and has placed his faith in another wave of his shadow squad as the Premiership champions seek to overturn a deficit of 17 points after going down 50-33 in an entertaining encounter with a side featuring a host of players from the Italian rugby academy, some full-time professionals and several full internationalists, two of whom – Sebastian Negri and Alberto Chillon – will be in action again tomorrow.
“After a fantastic experience last weekend, where we took 15 minutes to find our feet, the squad is rotated in an effort to give as many players as possible an opportunity to play at this level,” said Smith. “The back division has a very youthful look to it. The players have been told that this is their opportunity to stake a claim for the second half of the season.”
He has listed an inexperienced centre partnership of Robbie Mulvena and Donald Crawford, and names Ewan Fox and Tom Wilson at half-back. Up front, the pack is bolstered by the inclusion of international flanker Chris Fusaro, a former Heriot’s favourite who is released by Glasgow Warriors.
Last week’s meeting of the teams was played in front of more than 2000 and Smith is hopeful that the promise of another high-scoring affair from two sides looking to play expansive rugby will help draw another bumper attendance.
Meanwhile, the BT Cup reaches its second round and Watsonians, who are among the Premiership teams joining the competition, will be looking to use their tie at home to Selkirk to iron out the errors in two heavy defeats before the break in league action.
Boroughmuir will also be looking for some respite from league woes when they travel to face Ardrossan Accies.
Elsewhere, Edinburgh Accies, who lead the way in BT National Division One, will be aiming to transfer their impressive recent form to the tie away to a Peebles side that has been going well in Division Two.
Musselburgh also face lower league opposition when they welcome Kirkcaldy to Stoneyhill.