Edinburgh Accies go into a crucial Premiership clash at Heriot’s tomorrow boosted by a strong link with student rugby.
A year ago Edinburgh University withdrew from Scottish domestic rugby to concentrate on both player development and the British Student Championship, where they finished third.
Coach David Adamson says the move has seen talented student players attracted to Edinburgh, while a pathway still exists for the likes of back row Neil Aitken and prop Dave Bates to further their ambitions at Accies.
Breaking off preparations for tomorrow’s annual clash with St Andrews University in London, Adamson said: “It’s a two-way arrangement with Accies’ players Iain Berthinussen, Jamie Sole and Michael Liness helping us with coaching, while Neil and Dave are the latest to experience Premiership standards.”
Both have helped Accies to reach third place just behind leading pair Gala and Melrose and Adamson says: “Neil was our captain last year, but because he is a medic working in Wishaw each Wednesday he can’t turn out in student matches.
“Dave is quite ambitious and made the decision to move on and that shows we can support guys in that way.
“I spoke to the Scotland’s sevens management about Neil after Edinburgh Uni won the Casablanca tournament last season, beating the Springbok academy team.
“Neil was probably the reason we won because he is a big, athletic guy with a great engine.
“Also, having played stand off up to fourth year at Dollar Academy his decision making can be good.”
Bates misses out tomorrow when Hamish Watson is released by Edinburgh to play back row and Jamie Sole is fit to resume at full back.
But Adamson insists Bates will have a role to play in future, remarking: “Dave is probably one of the strongest guys in club rugby, with a bit of pedigree, too.
“Although born in Perth he lived down south for a spell where he got involved with the Sale Sharks academy.”
Both Accies and Heriot’s aim for five wins from six starts and the hosts will field an unchanged starting line-up for the first time this season.
Accies coach Jonny Else says: “This will be incredibly tough. We are expecting a Heriot’s team full of confidence and ambition and must ensure that we stay focused and disciplined.”
By contrast, Currie cannot finalise a line-up until ever-present scrum half Richard Snedden undertakes a fitness test ahead of a trip to Aberdeen.
Currie still seek a first win and amidst a plethora of injuries there is a first start for second row Chris Dumont, while fellow students Ian Vance and Mike Clements come into the squad for the first time.
“There are obviously areas we need to tighten, but the spirit is good,” says coach Ally Donaldson.
Aberdeen, currently third bottom, give a run to former Heriot’s prop Struan Cessford.
In the National League, Boroughmuir head for Selkirk with Greig Scott and Jonny Latta restored to the pack.
Watsonians, also unbeaten, are at Kelso, while Stewart’s Melville travel to play Hillhead/Jordanhill.