It was hardly the stuff of May Day celebrations, but in the down-to-earth manner that is the Borders way, the nucleus district's professional team was revealed yesterday in Galashiels.

The much-anticipated signing of Gregor Townsend was left very much in that category although his recruitment is expected to be confirmed shortly, while there were no foreign imports named, either, among the 17 players listed.

Clearly the task of getting names on the dotted line has proven harder for the management team of Alistair Cranston, the chief executive, and Tony Gil- bert, the head coach, than either had expected, since they had previously expressed confidence that they would be able to announce their entire squad yesterday. ''Of the squad of 30 that we are aiming for we have 28 signed up, but the balance we can't mention at the moment because of contractual arrangements,'' Cranston admitted.

However, it's a learning experience for all concerned with the creation of this new team and at least, as former All Blacks forwards coach Gilbert observed, they now have a full team on the books. ''You will have noticed that we have eight backs and nine forwards and if we were asked to take the field tomorrow we would,'' he said. ''There are a number of Borderers in the group and its a Borders side. Each one of us, whether we were born here or not, is totally fixed on the idea of making this as successful as we can.''

In saying so, Gil-bert stressed that only those who had opted to play for this side had been listed and, on a day it was confirmed that six players would be moving from Edinburgh to the Borders, none had been told they must move under the terms of their SRU contracts.

''One of the things about this squad, and I can't emphasise it enough, is these guys want to be here to play,'' he said. ''It's not just about professional players picking up contracts to make money. It's a Borders side that wants to play.''

The coach added they are no longer looking for players, indicating they have identified those they want to sign and acknowledged that among those still to be named would be from overseas.

''Of course, we've looked everywhere we could,'' he said. ''This is a Borders side that relates to Scottish rugby and outside that issue we are allowed to play two players of value who would fit into the team that may be foreigners. If we've got any more than that they can't play in the Celtic League, anyway.''

Yesterday's batch of signings - all Scottish- qualified players - was, though substantial in terms of numbers as well as quality, less than exciting since none could be described as a surprise following the speculation there has been.

Those who have joined from Border clubs are players who are simply delighted to get a crack at professional rugby, ranging from Ross Ford, Kelso's highly rated 18-year-old, to Tony Walker, Gala's hugely respected 29-year-old Kiwi-born captain.

More interesting were the decisions of the sextet of Edinburgh players who have opted to move. For international pair Cammy Murray and Iain Fairley, in particular, both of whom have struggled to get into the starting line-up at Edinburgh, it looked a relatively easy decision to return to their original home district.

Richard Metcalfe, another internationalist who has missed much of this season through injury, and Matt Taylor, one of several fine back-row players struggling to get game at Edinburgh, would also have found the decision straightforward.

However, for Kevin Utterson and Steve Scott the situation was more complex, having been regulars in an Edinburgh side which has looked increasingly as if it may be set to achieve considerable success next season, having finished this campaign strongly.

Indeed, when his name had first been linked with a move, Scott had originally said he felt it would be the wrong decision to leave Edinburgh because of the effort he had invested there, but he admitted that had now changed.

''At that time there was nothing in place, there were no coaches, and there wasn't a ground, but things have moved on, it's in Gala where I stay, so it's an opportu-nity to play where I played all my rugby from the age of nine,'' said the Scotland hooker.

Likewise, Utterson found the lure of returning to his roots too much to resist, having first made his name with the Borders before the merger of four districts into two superteams in 1998. ''Being involved four or five years ago when it was four districts was exciting and, hope-fully, it can be exciting again,'' he said.

Previously announced signings from Newcastle Falcons Gary Armstrong, George Graham, Doddie Weir

From Edinburgh Rugby Iain Fairley, Richard Metcalfe, Cammy Murray, Steve Scott, Matt Taylor, Kevin Utterson

From Scottish club rugby Stephen Cranston, Craig Dunlea, Scott MacLeod, Nikki Walker (all Hawick), Ross Ford (Kelso), Clark Laidlaw (Jed-Forest), Scott Paterson, Tony Walker (both Gala)

l The Scottish/Welsh League will be scrapped at the end of this season. An over-loaded fixture list has been blamed for the decision which was announced jointly by the Scottish and Welsh Rugby Unions who said their commitment to an extended Celtic League as soon as that is workable.