Ayr v Gala (3pm)
The frost covers are down at Millbrae to protect the encounter that could decide the destiny of the championship, writes Alan Christie. Both sides have suffered only a single loss but the visitors lead by the two additional bonus points. Gala's only defeat was at home to Ayr but they have played two tough league games in recent weeks while Ayr have been semi-idling in the Regional Cup.
The home coach Kenny Murray said: "The demanding standards we set have produced the best defensive record in the league, while we are also defending the Bill McLaren Cup for the sixth time." He is able to bring Dean Kelbrick in at centre and, although John Cox is still missing from the front row, George Hunter, the Glasgow tighthead, starts.
Loading article content
His opposite number, George Graham, said: "After last week's win at Melrose the team are on a high for this season-defining match." The only change to his side is injury enforced, as hooker Russell Anderson took a head knock so Callum Mackintosh starts.
Prediction Ayr double
Edinburgh Accies v Stirling County (2pm)
County are flirting with the bottom two and need a win before the British & Irish Cup returns next week while Accies eye the top four. A feature is the clash of Edinburgh scrum halves where pro Alex Back for County is directly opposed to his apprentice colleague Sean Kennedy currently making big waves on loan to Glasgow.
County are without centre Mark Bennett whom Glasgow have taken to Limerick as the 24th man but he will be available for both the B&I ties. However they are strenghtened by the return of Kennedy and Brian Archibald. Consistent Accies introduce fit-again winger Matt Coupar.
Prediction County in trouble
Boroughmuir v Dundee HSFP (3pm)
Dundee made the best of their catch-up matches and, although still ninth, are five points ahead of the bottom-placed hosts and a big win today could left them as high as sixth. Ian Rankin, the coach, said: "The challenge is to grow momentum." With Danny Levison rested, he recasts the back five: Chris Cumming is in at lock; Andy Redmayne moves to flanker; and Richie McIvor is at No.8.
It's just as big a day for Muir, who are close to becoming isolated. The coach, Fergus Pringle, changes both wings with Sepp Visser and Jordan Edmunds (his fist start of the season) coming in while Jamie Swanson is fit to return at No.8 and Ian Moody moves to lock.
Prediction High on the move
Heriot's v Melrose (2pm)
Any lingering hopes the champions Melrose had of a third successive title disappeared last week and fourth place is under threat. Craig Chalmers, the coach, said: "If we add better execution, decision-making and accuracy to last week's commitment and hunger, we'll get the win we crave." He sends out the same pack while centre Richard Mill and fly half Andrew Skeen return in the backs and lock Pete Eccles is on the bench.
Heriot's came from behind to win at the Greenyards, albeit with a very different starting side. Phil Smith, the coach, replaces the injured winger Marc Teague with Mike Penn and gives Sam Hidalgo Cline an outing at full back. Ken Mackenzie makes a debut at lock.
Prediction Melrose dumped
Aberdeen Grammar v Currie (2pm)
In early season Currie beat Grammar 39-37 with a stoppage-time penalty from Adam Hind – he plays today – which left Grammar still looking for a win. Today they are going for a third in a row, having risen to a season's best seventh. Several players have got over niggles during the league mini break, but lock Matt Reid is still out, so Andrew Crammond has a first start. Rob Aloe, injured on day one, returns to the bench where he is joined by the Glasgow hooker Finlay Gillies.
Currie, seeking a first win in three away games, have lost their centre James Johnstone to the Scotland 7s in Dubai; No.10 Gregor Hunter and wing Dougie Fife to Edinburgh in Galway; and hooker Fergus Scott to injury.
Prediction Grammar kick on
MATCH OF THE DAY
Watsonians v Stewart's-Melville
Edinburgh's only National League sides meet at Myreside when the leaders entertain the men from Inverleith who hit a purple patch in September and October, winning four games in a row, but have struggled since and dropped to seventh in the table, writes Stuart Sutherland.
Bruce Macnaughton, the Stew/Mel coach, admitted: "The wheels have come off a bit. In the losses to Hawick and Hillhead/Jordanhill, we were poor, but we've had injuries to key players and we've lost some confidence. Watsonians have scraped a couple of wins and we felt we were unlucky to lose 16-12 to them in September. We're able to field our first-choice back row for the first time since August: blindside Johnny Hare is back from America while Donald Sangster and Ben Manning return at Nos.7 and 8 after injuries."
Prediction Watsonians to stretch their unbeaten run