Clubs take a 'leap of faith' as new rugby season begins
New top division launched as Premiership champions mix with National 1 sides.
The Scottish domestic rugby season gets under way this weekend after its biggest shake-up since the introduction of professional players a quarter of a century ago.
A new semi-professional top division - the Super 6 - will aim to bridge the gap between Scotland's amateur clubs and Pro14 sides Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh.
It begins in November, but when the amateur leagues get under way this Saturday, the likes of Premiership champions Ayr will be mixing with Cartha Queen's Park, who finished 19 spots further down the rankings last season.
That's because the six clubs granted a licence for the Super 6 have seen their amateur sides relegated to the National 1 division.
Cartha Queen's Park president Ed Crozier said the club had to trust that the new structure would work.
"It's a massive leap of faith, so we've got to trust the people who are governing the national body, the coaches and the management behind the Super 6 and the national setup," former Scottish Rugby president said.
"Coming through the ranks via our league, the Premiership, moving onto Super 6 and into professional rugby, I think there's a proper pathway there, but it has to be properly managed."
Highland face an even tougher challenge having been promoted from National 2 before the summer.
The club is based 100 miles away from the nearest Super 6 side and officials there say they won't allow the new structure to interfere with their vision.
"It will be a leap of faith," head coach Dave Carson said. "We're just hoping that everything has gone right in setting up the Super 6, but it's also important that they look after the amateur game as well.
"As a club we're building up stronger and stronger, with our junior section, the girls and the ladies' team, and the first and seconds men are really thriving."
Scottish Rugby believes the new league structure will grow the game in the country, with further changes being drawn up for next season.
Director of development Stephen Gemmell said: "We're working with clubs to find out what they want. What do players need so we can retain players in our game and attract new players."
Who are the Super 6?
The semi-pro side of Ayr, winners of last year's Premiership, the side will play their home matches at Millbrae. Front-row Gordon Reid is the side's biggest signing, coming north from London Irish. The 32-year-old will also travel to Japan representing Scotland in the Rugby World Cup.
Boroughmuir RFC mark their 100th anniversary this year. The team is lead by Graham Shiel, former skills coach for Scotland's 7s team. "We hope we can fill the gulf [between professional rugby and club rugby] and become be a stepping stone for players to move on to professional rugby in the future," he said.
The club's amateur XV is the only side in Scotland to have never dropped out of the top tier, until this season following the re-shuffle. The side are yet to name their Super 6 coach after losing Ciaran Beattie following his appointment as Scotland 7s coach.
The name for the Borders' only Super 6 team was chosen by Melrose officials who wanted to reflect "the rugby talent and support drawn from other local clubs and towns". A new all-weather pitch will be in place at the Greenyards for the start of the season.
The most northerly Super 6 side, Stirling County will be led by former Edinburgh and Scotland player Ben Cairns. The team have signed a partnership with Stirling University which will see them share coaching and campus facilities for training
Less than a mile down the road from Boroughmuir, the side's home turf Myerside played host to Edinburgh in 2017. International front row WP Nel has been named as a specialist coach for the side.