Rugby: Cairns says Currie will chase the top spots

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It IS a sign of how far Currie rugby club have travelled in a 42-year existence that eyebrows are raised when they fall out of the top four in the Premiership.

Last season Currie finished fifth and the penalty for such a standing was to miss out on a place in the prestigious British and Irish Cup, where they have been a fixture for two of its three seasons.

However, re-elected skipper Mark Cairns, while expressing disappointment, sees an opportunity to regroup by focusing exclusively on bread-and-butter targets.

Cairns said: “When I joined Currie as a colt in 1999, moving up to the seniors in 2001, it was always about avoiding relegation, keeping it tight, not taking high risks.

“Now we go out and hunt top spots. In the past five years we have never dropped out of top three, winning two Scottish titles. The B&I Cup has been massive for finances as well, but at least there is no grey area about what we want to achieve.”

Cairns, who will lead out his side at home to Edinburgh Accies, knows better than most how competing on two fronts can take its toll – a 
situation Currie hope to use to advantage.

“Injuries were a big factor in using 40 players last season and that tells you how hard it is to maintain a squad that plays in the B&I.

“Calling on 40 players is what professional teams do and we have nothing like the same 
resources.”

That said, Cairns, brother of international centre Ben, is one of the few club players who have managed to bridge the gap with the professional scene, having been selected for Scotland’s sevens squad at tournaments as diverse as 
Wellington and Hong Kong.

“My absence on occasions contributed to the disruptions felt at Currie, but hopefully it was worth it to fly the flag for club rugby.

“There was a lot of 
commitment, but it was worth the effort because some of the stages you get to play on with the sevens’ are the world’s best

“For example, in Hong Kong I played in front of 50-60,000; we don’t have facilities that can cope with those numbers at Malleny Park just yet!”

In fact, Currie are in the process of creating another pitch and it is badly needed given the explosion of interest in youth rugby they are experiencing.

And, amidst regular talk of youthful obesity and ambivalence towards sport, it is 
particularly interesting to hear the views of Cairns, a PE teacher at George Watson’s while his own enthusiasms were fired in the state sector at Royal High School.

“At Currie the junior 
section is absolutely huge and the number of kids getting enjoyment makes it definitely worth investing in the ground.

“Participation levels at Currie are amazing with three teams in a lot of different age groups. It’s great to see.

“School sport at Watson’s is of a really high standard with a range of after school activities.

“This is summed up by the fact a rowing course for beginners has just had 100 pupils signing up; more teachers have had to be recruited.

“But when I was at Royal High there was a wide variety of sport, too. Teachers gave up a lot of time and overall there are a lot of good things going on.

“I certainly don’t subscribe to the view we are a nation of stiffies and at Currie we have just seen a local athletics club set up in Balerno High – all this even before the Olympic legacy kicks in.”

Many of the Currie youth players will eventually work a passage to a senior team whose style has changed in the time Cairns has been involved.

“We get stick for the quality of our pitch which is quite unjustified given how much it has improved through the work of men like Ivor Santer and other volunteers who give Currie a real community feel.

“Malleny Park is now one of the better pitches, but if people traditionally are going to think it is a heavy surface, well, they will be less aware we have speeded up our game.

“Not for a while have we been a team whose strength is big forwards charging around.

“There’s more pace to 
our game and we like to play wider. Our pitch has to suit that style.”

According to Cairns, that will be even more the case in the weeks ahead with the likes of Scotland under-20 centre James Johnstone back from long-term shoulder damage and other recruits such as Kiwi Simeon James.

“Consistency in the forward pack to give our backs some decent ball to work with is our aim,” says Cairns, before adding with a twinkle: “Then, after that, it will be about seeing if back rowers like myself are able to keep up!”