Rugby: Borders boost for Scotland Club XV

Hawick's Lee Armstrong in action against Boroughmuir earlier this year
Hawick's Lee Armstrong in action against Boroughmuir earlier this year
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Thirteen Borders rugby players have been called up to Phil Smith’s Scottish Club XV squad who will play matches against England and Ireland early next year.

Seven Melrose players, five from Hawick and one from Gala have been included in the initial 31-man squad due to play England at Netherdale on February 26th, and Ireland in Cork on March 18th.

Nick Beavon, James Bhatti, Grant Runciman, Lewis Carmichael, Fraser Thomson, San Pecquer and Neil Irvine-Hess (Melrose) will be joined by Nicky Little, Craig Charters, Ross Graham, Lee Armstrong and John Coutts (Hawick) and George Graham (Gala) ensure there will be a big Borders presence.

It will be the first time a full Club International will be played between Scotland and England.

Scotland Club International and Heriot’s head coach, Phil Smith, announced his initial squad at the weekend.

The in-form forwards from Melrose, Ayr and Heriot’s dominate the selection up-front with all coming from the sides currently performing well in the BT Premiership.

The back-line sees a variety of attacking flair called upon from across the league, including Gala, Glasgow Hawks, Currie and Boroughmuir.

Many key players from last season’s squad have retained their place with last year’s captain Ross Curle and Jason Hill from Heriot’s and Glasgow Warriors providing invaluable experience.

Smith said: “Throughout the spine of the squad, we have players in key positions who have experience of playing in the Club XV.

“I have selected players who have been on genuine form in the BT Premiership and who best represent the Scottish club rugby game.”

Smith has included many new faces within his selection this year, including half-back pairing of Armstrong and Paddy Boyer.

He added: “We have decided to select one out-half and I have been really impressed by Lee this year, he’s a key part of the current Hawick squad.

“Paddy Boyer missed out last year but has maintained his form throughout the season and will contribute from scrum-half.”

James Malcolm, Ross Graham and Lewis Carmichael from the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy have been selected, with the Club XV set to provide an international stage from which to develop.

The squad will now gather for three training sessions in preparation for a warm-up fixture against Scotland U20s (Tuesday 26 January).

Smith said: “These fixtures are a chance for the players to show that the Scottish club game is at a high level.

“I want them to promote themselves, their club, their country and win as many games as possible.”

Club XV for International campaign: Forwards: Nick Beavon (Melrose), Jamie Bhatti (Melrose), Will Bordill (Ayr), Lewis Carmichael (Melrose), Struan Cessford (Heriot’s), Craig Charters (Hawick), Ross Graham (Hawick), Jason Hill (Heriot’s), George Hunter (Ayr), Neil Irvine-Hess (Melrose), Michael Liness (Heriot’s), Nicky Little (Hawick), James Malcolm (Ayr), Rob McAlpine (Ayr), Pete McCallum (Ayr), Russell Nimmo (Heriot’s), Grant Runciman (Melrose), Jack Turley (Heriot’s).

Backs: Lee Armstrong (Hawick), Paddy Boyer (Glasgow Hawks), John Coutts (Hawick), Ross Curle (Ayr), Jordan Edmunds (Boroughmuir), George Graham (Gala), Brendan McGroarty (Glasgow Hawks), Haddon McPherson (Ayr), Sam Pecquer (Melrose), Ruaridh Smith (Currie), Liam Steele (Heriot’s), Fraser Thomson (Melrose), Graham Wilson (Heriot’s).