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Weekend club rugby prospects

Ayr v Ulster Ravens (2.30pm)

Ayr v Ulster Ravens (2.30pm)

It's back to the British & Irish Cup for Scotland's four competing teams, with the first leg of double-headers taking place this weekend. Like the other Scottish sides, Ayr, after two matches, are still looking for their first win. They face Ulster's "A" side, who are anxious to add a second success.

As with all the coaches involved at this level of competition, Ayr's Peter Laverie talks about raising skill standards, developing a higher physical intensity and so on but he also refreshingly adds: "It also gives the team a real thrill to have a crack at some of the big teams."

The squad he has at his disposal has been boosted by the release of a number of Glasgow Warriors players among whom the name to catch the eye is that of prop Gordon Reid, who began rugby life wearing pink and black. The Warriors who start are winger Byron McGuigan and flanker James Eddie while joining Reid on the bench are hooker Finlay Gillies and No.10 Scott Wight.

The multi-capped Ireland centre Paddy Wallace, who damaged his anterior cruciate ligament against Glasgow in the PRO12 defeat last February, is in line for a return with the Ravens.

Stirling County v Nottingham (3pm)

The other Scottish sides all face English teams. In timely fashion County ended a nine-game losing streak, which included B&I Cup games, last Saturday when they downed Aberdeen.

Graeme Young, their coach, said: "That was a heartening display last week, before we once again seek to use these fixtures against professional opposition to develop our players."

Young has in his squad Glasgow's international scrum-half Henry Pyrgos, whom he pairs with returning stand-off Stuart Edwards. Prop Colin Hutton is back after injury. Centre Brian Archibald and lock Craig Deacons are rested, replaced by Fraser Lyle and Ruaridh Leishman.

After making a slow start to the season, Nottingham are unbeaten in their last three home matches including a draw last week with Cornish Pirates. Their coach, Martin Haag, said: "Some players will be rested but we will still go to Stirling with a strong side looking to improve on what we have been doing recently."

London Welsh v Edinburgh Accies (2pm)

Jonny Else, the Accies coach, struck a bold tone ahead of the visit to Old Deer Park: "We are determined to play our brand of rugby and are focusing on putting in a performance that we are all proud of."

His men face quite an undertaking as London Welsh top the English Championship following relegation from last season's Premiership, despite losing for the first time to Bedford last week. Head coach Justin Burnell is looking for a response saying: "It's about rectifying those areas which were questionable at the weekend."

Noteworthy in his side are hooker Nathan Vella, who joined the club last week from Auckland, while lock Will Carrick-Smith, on loan from Exeter Chiefs, also makes his first appearance and the former Heriot's favourite Ian Nimmo is on the bench.

Accies' No.10 Ruairidh Bonner and lock Jamie McCarthy have picked up injuries, with the former replaced by Iain Chisholm, while Else has three Edinburgh men at his disposal. Prop Lewis Niven and lock Robert McApline start and Stuart McInally on the bench.

Bristol v Gala (tomorrow 2pm)

Gala are Scotland's form side, on a seven-game winning run that has secured a comfortable lead at the top of the Premiership. However they face full-time pros tomorrow and learned what that can mean when Leeds gave them a drubbing in the last tie.

Bristol, with the former Scotland coach Andy Robinson in charge, won their first B&I Cup game only then to suffer an abandonment and they now face three games in seven days.

The Bristol team includes some younger players but forwards coach Matt Ferguson said: "With 48 professionals to draw on we'll put out a team with the standards we'd expect."

The Gala coach George Graham, a former Scotland forwards coach, has made nine changes from last week's side. Left out are lock Opeta Palepoi and flanker Garry Graham. Andy McLean is at scrum-half, and Graham is able to bring in three professionals in hooker Kevin Bryce, lock Ben Toolis and the former Hawick winger Nikki Walker.

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