Edinburgh Accies coach Derek O’Riordan believes his men have nothing to lose in tomorrow’s promotion/relegation play-off against Hawick at Lasswade (kick-off 3pm) with a BT Premiership place the prize for the winners.
O’Riordan and his players are relishing the challenge and have prepared well in the four weeks since concluding the BT National Division One campaign in second spot to secure a showdown with the Borderers, who were second bottom in the top flight.
“We go into the game as underdogs,” he said. “We are a National One team with an opportunity to go out and have a crack at a Premiership team. If we lose, at least we have had a chance to have a go and we will know where we are at.”
With several players, notably the experienced back row trio of Greg Campbell, Tom Drennan and skipper Jamie Sole, having played Premiership rugby in the past, Accies should not be overawed by the occasion and will take to the Hawthornden pitch with high hopes of becoming only the second side from the lower league to secure promotion via the play-off – Hawick did so in 2013. Indeed, Accies survived the following season by beating Stewart’s Melville in the decider.
However, O’Riordan, who also has Scotland age group caps Alex Glashan and Paul Loudon at his disposal, concedes that there is some pressure on the youngsters in his squad, three of whom are aged 18.
The coach is happy with the way preparations have gone since the campaign concluded with a six-match unbeaten run.
“We took a week off to rest sore bodies, except for the boys who were at Melrose Sevens,” he added. “The younger guys have been training for fifteens one day and sevens the other. This week the focus has been on fifteens.”
The club’s strength and conditioning coaches have ensured the intensity of training over the past three weeks has been sufficient to sustain levels of fitness and O’Riordan has called on former club stalwart and Scotland team manager Guy Richardson to offer some advice to the senior players on how to manage key moments.
In his selection, O’Riordan has opted for the personnel who performed consistently in the regular season run-in. The key debate was over the left-wing berth, with Jack Paterson earning the nod over Fraser Morrison, who nevertheless will have a key role to play off the bench.