Stornoway Rugby Club kick off the 2012 rugby season this Saturday with a home game against Garioch RFC, as the islanders prepare for a massive step up in competition following their promotion to Caledonia North Division Two.
Having won the North-West League last season, Stornoway were given the chance to step up to the higher league, which will certainly mean more meaningful fixtures, but will also place an extra burden on the island side in terms of travelling and commitment, with a number of the clubs based over on the east coast.
The main aim for player-coach Angus ‘Bubble’ MacKay is to get a settled pack together to compliment a back division that would grace most teams in the north of Scotland.
They will, as usual, be well-marshalled by new captain Darren Beattie in the centre and Peter Hobson at stand-off, but this is a set of backs that can also call on the services of fleet-footed South African Quintin Nel, the pacy Eaun ‘Moley’ MacLeod, young speedster Ruairidh Stewart and the strong running of Jerome Curran, as well as Angus Williams and James Kearns.
An-already talented backline has been significantly bolstered this season after the singing of Jackson Tucker Lynch, who previously plied his considerable skills at top Glasgow outfit GHK.
He will surely carve open the north defences with his speed, knowledge and incisive running, giving the islanders’ attack line a new — and hopefully for them, devastating — focal point.
However, things don’t look quite so positive up front and much will depend on the regular availability of second row partners Roddy Graham and Calum Tom Moody.
Young bullwark forward Calum John MacDonald — the seventeen-year-old who made such an impression last year — looks like being unavailable for the whole season, which will be a crying shame bearing in mind his undoubted potential.
Angus ‘Og’ MacArthur will be key to the pack from the number eight position and due to the paucity of available forwards player-coach MacKay will need to don his boots for another season to shore up the set-piece and scrum, alongside ageing front-rower Murray MacLeod.
The islanders will not harbour any real ambitions of winning this league, but a decent mid-table slot should not be beyond them — providing they stay clear of injuries to key figures.
That, however, will only be realistic if they win the majority of their home games — starting this Saturday when they host the Inverurie outfit. The game takes place ay Bayhead with a 3pm kick-off.