The new Premiership rugby season kicks off on Saturday – a week after East League and cup games started last weekend. From a Borders perspective, only Hawick and Melrose contest the Premiership while National League 1 is expected to be even more competitive with four local clubs, Gala, Jed-Forest, Kelso and Selkirk, battling for honours with Biggar and Peebles in National League 2 and the high-flying St Boswells in National League 3.

Our rugby correspondent Atholl Innes looks ahead to the new season.


WITH grandiose plans for The Greenyards and changes on and off the field, Melrose’s standards were set in the Charity League clash on Saturday at Ayr.

Robert Chrystie will again coach the club, supported by Stuart Johnston, and the stage is set for an exciting campaign.

Grant Shiells has joined from London Scottish and Nick Beavon is back from Edinburgh Rugby, both of whom will add a wealth of experience to the side, while Dan Elkington has been widening his own experience in South Africa. All will be joined by young players from the Wasps.

Captain is Grant Runciman, last season’s player-of-the-year and player-of-the-match in the winning BT Cup final side. He said: “I am really excited about it."

Craig Jackson is vice-captain.

Douglas Hardie has earned the role of President after many years on the marketing side.

He has contributed to many organisations in the town, including the Festival.


AFTER surviving in the Premiership with a win over Edinburgh Accies, Hawick will be looking for a more secure season under the captaincy of Bruce McNeil.

The Greens have been boosted by the arrival of Dom Buckley (Kelso), Ross Combe and Matt Carryer (Gala) as well as Craig Hamilton. But they have lost Rory Hutton, who has moved on.

McNeil knows they have a lot to work to do after beating Gala narrowly.

“It has not been hard bringing in new players,” McNeil said. “They are quality players and integrated really well, and add a lot to our team.

“We want to win those tight games that we did not last season. I think we are fairly settled at present and we also want to breed our young players. We do not want to bring people in and forget about our youngsters.”

Mansfield Park has not always been a happy hunting ground for visiting clubs, and new coach Darren Cunningham, who has joined from Kelso to replace Nikki Walker, will want to get off to a winning start against Currie.


Gala were disappointed to drop into the National Leagues, where they will face several Border derbies, which should be ideal for the coffers.

The club has retained much of the squad, although they have lost Ross Combe, Matt Carryer, Luke Pettie, Gregor Mein and Josh Irvine.

After a narrow defeat at Hawick, coach Chris Dalgleish is optimistic about the future.

“We were the better team on the day and missed several chances, and can build on that,” he said. “Hawick are a Premiership side and hopefully we will have a season that we want.”

Dalgleish said that he was hopeful there were players to come in. “We have a pretty good squad, but if we pick up injuries, we will be struggling. I am happy to give young guys the opportunity.”

The Maroons will again be captained by Graeme Speirs, and with changes off the field too – Bob Sneddon is the new president – Gala will kick off at Aberdeen. With Dundee also in the league as well as newcomers Cartha, life will not be easy for the Braw Lads.


It will not be an easy season in National League 1 with Selkirk facing challenges against Gala, Jed-Forest and Kelso among others.

The club has announced Ewen Robbie the new Director of Rugby and Graham Marshall continuing as head coach assisted by Michael Jaffray and Fraser Jack.

New players include Luke Pettie (prop from Gala), Callum Leckey (forward from Belfast Quins and Peebles) and Steven Hamilton (back from Peebles and Dalkeith). Leckey has played for Ulster Under-20s and will help in the club’s strength-and-conditioning programme. Hamilton previously played a season with Toronto, while Pettie has played for the Scottish Club XV and regional grades.

“Our club is where it is due to the hard work of our volunteers,” said Robbie.

“Moving forward, every effort will be made to engage with all ages within our community, creating a fully inclusive environment where they all feel that they belong.

“We will endeavour to facilitate a family environment and grow as a family club.”

That will be boosted by the Youth Club players, many of whom had graduated to the 1st XV over the years.

Robert Forrest continues as President for a second year with Benny Rafferty as Vice-President.


Like many clubs, there are changes at Poynder Park with Gary Stevens from New Zealand taking over as coach with Adam Roxburgh as his assistant.

Kelso have brought in a number of players – among them Kieran Cooney and Cato Grauer, from Selkirk, Ian Sim from Morley, Ross Cooke from Maidstone and both Josh Irvine and Gregor Mein from Gala. They have lost Donald Seed , Dom Buckley, Colin Arthur, Jack Chambers and Tony Wichary.


Gregor Young will captain Jed-Forest as the club strives again for promotion in what will be a hard season.

Along with twin brother Lewis as vice-captain they will strive to lead from the front with several Borders derbies on the programme.

Coach Jammie Macfarlane will still be on hand although taking a back seat, assisted by Gavin Kerr and Kevin Barrie, who add a wealth of experience. On the playing side, Ewan Scott returns from Gala and Watsonians, and is joined by Darren Gillespie from Bury, Andrew Sanders from New Zealand, Jamie Oliver, who had a spell in Canada, Cameron Mackay from Melrose and Joe Northwood from Tynedale.


Peebles again battle for promotion from National League 2 with Drew Moore being confirmed as head coach, assisted by Lewis Bertram and Callum Anderson, who is also captain.

The club has lost a number of players to retirement and other clubs, but aim to play attacking rugby which could surprise many teams in the division. “I am very excited about the new season and we have a very young squad with great potential for the future,” said Moore.

“We want to play attacking rugby and are committed to developing our own talent.

“The key is that we develop from within. There will be difficult games and the best way is to play against better teams.”

Director of Rugby, Adam Moffat, added: “We have no new recruits, but a couple of guys have moved to the town. It is really important that we have players who agree what we want to do and feel an affinity to the club. Training numbers have been the best for a few years with innovative ideas.”


Biggar will be looking for great things at Hartreemill despite the loss of several players. But Gary Mercer continues as coach assisted by Davy Wilson.

Among the players who have left are Andrew Jardine to Melrose, Ross Jackson to Marr, and Calum Henderson to Denmark, while Andrew Dunlop has retired and others have gone to university.

In are Carne Green, a stand-off from Aberdeenshire, Ross Bradford from Boroughmuir, Ryan Moffat from Whitecraigs, Cartha and Hawks, Michael McKeand and Callum Braid .

“We hope to build on last year,” said spokesman Al Stewart.


St Boswells jump into National League 3 and new territory with confidence after a climb through the ranks.

Tony Wichary and brother Louis join from Kelso while heading for Jenny Moore’s field are Liam Scott from Gala and Sean Quinn from Melrose.