Currie star Steve Burton is preparing for a day of examinations tomorrow – on and off the rugby pitch where he bids to help his side bring down high-flying English Championship side Nottingham at Malleny Park in the British and Irish Cup.
Former Scotland age-group flanker Burton is coming towards the end of a civil engineering degree at Edinburgh University. And that means a dash from the exam room to the changing room in order to help Currie follow up their breakthrough success away to Swansea last Saturday – also in the B & I Cup.
Burton is getting used to juggling commitments, as he explained when reflecting on a Currie win which keeps alive hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the competition under a complicated procedure where teams don’t play matches against other teams in their group
“Although we won 38-21 it was tight up until the end,” he said. “But while the rest of the team set off for a night of celebration, I was conscious of having a university exam on Monday morning which meant a night of revision for me.”
At least the one-time national under-20 colleague of World Cuppers Ruaridh Jackson and Richie Gray could bask in flying the flag successfully for Scottish rugby in cross-border competition.
He added: “Ayr and Melrose had previously enjoyed wins and it is great that we now also have made a mark.”
Centre colleague Andy MacMahon, who was among the try-scorers at Swansea, echoed those remarks.
He said: “Getting a win is a monkey off our backs. It’s been coming the more we learned to cope with the extra physicality that the B & I Cup demands.”
Agreeing that the pressure is, to an extent, eased, Burton added: “It was always recognised that the first win would be the hardest to get.
“Hopefully we can be more relaxed while still doing our best to qualify for the next stage.”
The impact of Currie’s success will hopefully be reflected at the turnstiles on a day when there is another restricted club programme.
Burton recalled: “One of our biggest crowds this season was when we entertained Ulster in this competition.
“Unfortunately Edinburgh were in action against Racing Metro the same night.
“So, tomorrow’s visit from Nottingham should provide a more accurate guide to our crowd-pulling potential.”
Nottingham helped launch this competition in Edinburgh two seasons ago when they travelled to Heriot’s and won 5-0 amid a constant downpour.
On that occasion they were accompanied by an enthusiastic travelling support and it is anticipated followers will again make the journey north to see a side who have won all three matches so far – against Doncaster, Rotherham and Pontypridd.
Nottingham captain, Finlay Barnham, said: “We know that Currie will be a tough prospect at Malleny Park but we’re looking forward to the challenge. We’ve had a good run in the competition this season and we’ll be looking to give all of our fans who travel up a good Christmas send-off with a strong performance.”
Burton admits it is a bit of a leap into the unknown for Currie.
“Our coaches will have had a look, as always, at the opposition and there has been some talk about Nottingham this week. But generally we expect to be confronted by a higher degree of organisation than usual against opponents who are able to train together every day.
Last week’s win over Swansea, which, incidentally, took place on the old international rugby arena which doubles as the Glamorgan cricket ground where Sir Gary Sobers once hit Malcolm Nash for six sixes in a single over, has certainly heightened expectations at Currie.
Burton added: “Winning at Swansea has added to our determination to be involved in the competition for 2012-13.”
That will mean climbing one place, having finished the first tranche of matches in fourth place before the split into a title group of eight teams.
As for Nottingham, they are lying fourth in the English Championship and Currie need to take advantage of the presence of a handful of professionals on loan from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“The way the pros have slotted in so far as been seamless and a credit to all concerned,” said Burton, whose team are set to give a late fitness test to Cypriot international stand-off Andy Binikos, who is battling a foot injury.
Currie: Jamie Forbes, Barry Mansfield, Douglas Fife, Andy MacMahon, James Johnstone, Andrew Binikos, Chris Leck, John Cox, Finlay Gillies, Colin Phillips, Adam Best, Steve Turnbull, Steve Burton, Ross Weston, Mark Cairns. Subs. - Andy Kelly, Ross Merrilees, Gary Temple, Malcolm Peacock, Richard Snedden, Gregor Hunter, John Houston.
Nottingham: James Stokes, Andrew Savage, Dante Mama, Joe Munro, Jack Cobden, Joe Cobden, Finlay Barnham, Matt Parr, Oli Taylor, Matt Shields, Mitchell Todd, Lee Morley, Rupert Cooper, Phil Eggleshaw, Jonny Baird. Subs. - Raphael Olive, Joe Duffey, Ben Prescott, Craig Hammond, Sean Romans, Jack Bradford, Ryan Hough.
lMUSSELBURGH aim to close 2011 unbeaten in National League Division One when they host Dunfermline at Stoneyhill, while three successive wins have pushed Murrayfield Wanderers up to third in the same table ahead of tomorrow’s visit to Linlithgow. Edinburgh University await Ellon at Peffermill.
lWATSONIANS will complete preparations for the restart of the leagues in Premier B with a friendly against Biggar at Myreside tomorrow.