The injury epidemic in rugby isn’t just affecting professional and international sides, it seems, with a fresh spate of casualties afflicting Dundee High just when they thought they were over the worst.
As Gregor Townsend is considering anyone who has a 40 inch waist and may have worn a loose fitting scrum cap at some point in their lives to cover Scotland’s sudden prop shortage, High coach Colin Sangster is in a similar pickle cobbling together candidates to fill front row roles for Saturday’s visit to Mayfield of GHA.
Alan Brown, Ceillem Stewart and James Forrester were all injured last week, while Angus Fraser is off to South Africa for his MacPhail Scholarship, meaning that only Murphy Walker and Lewis McLean were fit enough to start and had to do a full 80 minute shift against league leaders Edinburgh Accies, who romped to a 35-0 lead in the first 30 minutes.
It was 5-5 the rest of the way which shows that High found some resilience, but the team was also missing Josh Rutnagur, Andy Redmayne, Ali Mackie, Neil Herron and Andy Hamilton – this only a week after Sangster thought he just about a full complement to pick from.
The situation is not likely to significantly improve for the visit of the GHA, whom High defeated handsomely in the reverse fixture back in the autumn.
There was some proud news for the club at least yesterday with the news that Walker, captain of the winning Strathallan School Scottish cup winning side, is in Scotland’s Under-20s Junior Six Nations squad a year ahead of schedule.
Kareem Baretto, a Glenalmond College old boy who played club rugby for High and for Perthshire before graduating to an Academy contract at Glasgow Warriors, has also been picked in Stevie Scott’s squad.
High’s match against still-unbeaten Accies at New Field – Raeburn Place was deemed unplayable – was one of the few games to beat the snows last week. In National Two Kirkcaldy’s fixture at GHK was always a likely casualty given the weather in the West, but their cushion at the top was only trimmed to two points as Dumfries got the win but not the bonus at home to Biggar in the only fixture in the division.
That leaves the Blues with two games in hand, and Whitecraigs, seven points adrift at the foot of the division, are the visitors to Beveridge Park this week. Kirkcaldy won 41-14 in their previous meeting in October, and perhaps an indication of the Newton Mearns side’s predicament this year is that they’ve had only two more home games since that loss due to weather problems.
Howe of Fife were similarly scuppered under a foot of snow at Peebles last week, and it’ll be a fortnight’s gap in preparation for the Fife derby at Duffus Park next week as they were scheduled to take on the now absent Aberdeenshire this week.
Only Haddington of Perthshire’s National Three relegation rivals were able to play last week and took nothing from their trip to Ardrossan, so `Shire remain in ninth place three points ahead of the East Lothian side with an absolute must-win coming this week at the North Inch.
Dalziel, who have collapsed from being a promotion seeking side just a couple of seasons ago to struggling with just two points and no wins from 12 games, are the visitors. `Shire won in Motherwell 29-20 in October but it seems nothing but a five-pointer will suffice this week to help them pull decisively away from the drop zone.
The regional Shield and Bowl competitions enter the semi-final stage this week, but there’s just one game in the Caledonia Shield with current Division One leaders Caithness getting a free pass into the final by virtue of Aberdeen Wanderers’ sudden withdrawl from the competition.
The other semi sees Alloa, fourth in Caley One, at home to Grangemouth who are fifth, although the Gryphons are clear favourites for this one.
The Bowl semis both see Caley Midlands Two sides at home to teams from the division below. Panmure host Rosyth Sharks at Forthill, with the Dundee University Medics, still the the promotion hunt in the league, getting a real tester away to Kinross.
Meanwhile Hillfoots are likely to cement their positon atop Caley Midlands Two at home to Falkirk IIs, while Howe IIs – just a year on from the infamous 172-0 thrashing against Blairgowrie – can go top of Caley Midlands Three if they win at Bannockburn with a bonus.
In the women’s leagues both Fife sides are at home on Sunday in National League One, Howe Harlequins hosting Greenock Wanderers while Kirkcaldy meet second-placed promotion-hunting Glasgow University.
BT League fixtures this weekend (all kick-offs 2pm unless stated)
National League One: Dundee HSFP v GHA.
National League Two: Kirkcaldy v Whitecraigs (3pm ko).
National League Three: Perthshire v Dalziel.
Caledonia Shield: Alloa v Grangemouth (1.30 pm ko)
Caledonia Bowl: Panmure v Rosyth Sharks, Kinross v Dundee University Medics (both 1.30 pm ko)
Caledonia Division Two Midlands: Hillfoots v Falkirk II, Stirling County III v Kirkcaldy II.
Caledonia Division Three Midlands: Bannockburn v Howe of Fife II, Bo’ness v Grangemouth II, Arbroath v Hillfoots II, Angus Development v Stobswell, Crieff and Strathearn v Glenrothes II.