Rugby: Gamboa key to Sonians drive for promotion

Experienced man Mark Rennie can benefit from new signing Claudio Gamboa's help in guiding the younger players at Watsonians
Experienced man Mark Rennie can benefit from new signing Claudio Gamboa's help in guiding the younger players at Watsonians
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Watsonians are lining up a rugby debut tomorrow for Claudio Gamboa, a 30-year-old Argentinian prop forward whose brother, Ulises, made four appearances for Edinburgh last season after joining from Aironi.

Edinburgh Accies are the visitors to Myreside for an Edinburgh Regional Cup tie when Watsonians hope to make it 14 matches in a row unbeaten.

However, also looming is a visit to Hawick the following weekend when National League rugby resumes and it is important that the former Buenos Aires provincial under-20 star gets an opportunity to settle in before a crucial encounter that can go a long way to determining whether promotion back into the top flight is achieved by Sonians at the first time of asking.

Catalyst for Gamboa’s arrival is Watsonian forward coach Javier Palacios, a 50-year-old Argentine who until recently coached at Merchiston Castle School.

Says Palacios: “I was keen to get back into club coaching and Watsonians offered me an opportunity. There are some tremendous prospects at the club and such is the potential I can see Watsonians being real challengers in the Premiership in a few years’ time.

“But we need to get promotion first and all these good youngsters will benefit from one or two older heads being around. Of the current side only Mark Rennie is truly experienced and Claudio can assist him in passing on knowledge having spent a couple of years in Italian rugby.

“Last season Ulises returned from Europe to the San Cirano club and he was due to join Watsonians in August before pulling a hamstring.

“Now he has recovered from that injury and his 112kg will be very useful in bolstering our scrum having had previous debut attempts ruled out by bad weather.”

Palacios says the player’s representative background should not be underestimated.

“There is more to Claudio’s game than scrummaging and when I coached Buenos Aires under-20s I had the equivalent of 12 packs of forwards to choose from as there are 75 clubs in Buenos Aires alone, each running four or five teams.

“There were 32 boys to pick from when I coached Edinburgh under-16s a few years ago, so proving yourself as a player in Argentina is difficult.”

According to Palacios, there is another major incentive for Watsonians.

“Last week the Watson’s College team won the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup for the first time and we want to make it as attractive as possible for these players to eventually join us.”

Meanwhile, head coach Marcus Di Rollo has had to rule out his utility back brother, Ben, for the rest of the season. “Unfortunately Ben has ruptured his achilles tendon and has had to undergo surgery,” said Marcus who heaped praise on contributors to the winning streak.

“Rory Steele has been scoring tries at the rate of one every game while Scott McKean and Tom Hart have struck up a centre partnership with Brian Walls continuing to kick goals.

“Dom Dunnett is outstanding every week and Chris Scott has been around so long it is easy to forget he has just turned 20.”

Accies coach Simon Cross says: “Iain Berthinussen makes a welcome return after injury as does Alex Blair on the bench. No Elite Development Players are available so Ryan Godsmark gets an opportunity at openside flanker and Duncan Morrison starts at loosehead prop.

.Elsewhere in the cup, James Johnstone returns from Scotland sevens duty to line up for Currie at Biggar while Boroughmuir head for Lasswade aiming to break their competition duck with a side that has Jordan Edmunds promoted on the wing this week after excelling for the seconds.

Also, international scrum-half Calum Cusiter begins a comeback from the bench.

At Goldenacre, Heriot’s await Haddington while Stewart’s Melville, inactive since November 3 are anxious their match at Musselburgh goes ahead.