Rising star Charlie Shiel looks set to line up against his dad’s team when Currie Chieftains welcome Boroughmuir in the opening round of Tennent’s Premiership fixtures on Saturday.
Shiel junior featured for the Chieftains in their pre-season matches and could be involved again if he is not required by Edinburgh tomorrow. Father, Graham – a former international centre – has joined Muir as attack coach.
Shiel is one of five Chieftains players who have signed professional contracts in the past year, but coach Ben Cairns has recruited well to fill the gaps. Gregor Hunter, a former stand-off at both Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, and Joe Reynolds, are key acquisitions in the backs – both have played for the club in the past – while a noteworthy arrival in the front row is Argentinian Matias Argiro who has experienced high level rugby in France and Italy.
“Gregor is a quality player,” said Cairns “Jamie Forbes had a really good season for us at 10 last season but the way we want to play you can never have too many ball players in the team.”
Cairns is confident that Chieftains will shrug off the disappointment of failing to secure a franchise for the Super Six competition which starts next season.
“The club will bounce back like it has when there has been a bit of adversity. We’ve always been a club that has bounced back stronger, so it will be our intention to prove a point this season,” he added.
For their part Muir, whose bid was successful, appear to have made several shrewd signings, among them Rory Drummond who crosses Colinton Road from Watsonians, Kerr Gossman who has switched from Stirling County and Tom Wilson who makes the move from Heriot’s.
Muir produced some sparkling rugby last season but had trouble converting it into wins. Head coach Peter Wright believes that his men could be title contenders if they play with the same flair this time around.
Another coach urging his team to open out whenever possible is Steve Lawrie at Watsonians. Sonians also secured a Super Six berth and Lawrie is relishing the chance to make the final year of the top flight in its current form special.
“It’s the last one. We want to do our best in this competition because winning it would be pretty cool,” said Lawrie. He is focusing on this weekend’s opener at Stirling County who started the season by beating Melrose in the charity shield last week.
“We need to start well and really impose our game,” said Lawrie who has been busy on the transfer front, with much expected of stand-off Lee Millar who returns to Scotland after five years as a professional south of the border. Lawrie has also attracted Josh Rowland, an Ireland sevens cap who has been playing in Romania.
Also on familiar territory is influential back rower Jason Hill who has signed up again at Heriot’s after two seasons in England, while scrum-half Andrew Simmers is back from studying in America. However, the Goldenacre men, who start the campaign away to Glasgow Hawks, are without former skipper Jack Turley following his return to New Zealand.
Edinburgh Accies mark their return to the top flight after a three year absence with the visit of Ayr, beaten play-off finalists last season. The Raeburn Place side’s promotion means that half of the league’s ten teams are based in the Capital, and that has created a scramble to sign the city’s available talent. Among the new faces at Accies will be Cammy Gray, a proven finisher while playing at Currie.
While conceding that his men may find the going tough against bigger sides, coach Derek O’Riordan wants them to replicate the expansive style of play that earned promotion last season, with a view to building a squad capable of challenging for honours when the new Championship kicks off next year.