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Ross Sutherland are different beast after lay-off as they return to league action

By Andrew Henderson

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John Mann believes Ross Sutherland are much better placed to compete in Caledonia North Two than they were last time a season could be played.

Ross Sutherland face Highland 2nd XV in Invergordon. Picture: Peter Carson
Ross Sutherland face Highland 2nd XV in Invergordon. Picture: Peter Carson

The pandemic meant that no club rugby was possible in the 2020/21 campaign, but the Stags have used the time away from matches well.

An extremely young team two years ago with several players stepping up from the under-18s, the squad is now a far more mature one physically and mentally.

So as far as Mann is concerned, that bodes well for the club’s prospects this year.

“I remember saying two years ago that we’ve got a really young squad, and we still have a really young squad but they’re all two years more mature,” Mann said.

“That is both physically and mentally, and I think it has done the world of good.

“We played Caithness in pre-season with an average age of 21, but this time we didn’t look out of place.

“That time has done a lot of players the world of good – they look more like young men that are in great shape, and we’ve had time to understand the game better.

“What I’ve seen in the last two weeks is that they are a bit more streetwise, and have a bit more composure.

“They’re not headless chickens going around the pitch, they are rugby players that are ready to roll.”

That development should help Ross Sutherland implement a free-flowing brand of rugby, which is one their first opponents are well-versed in. Highland 2nds are the first visitors to Invergordon in Caledonia North Two, and Mann cannot wait.

“If Highland come with a typical Highland team that want to play from everywhere – now we’ve got a team that can play from everywhere, so this could be the game of the season,” Mann enthused.

“It’s going to be 20 degrees, and our pitch will be as fast as it can be with how short the grass is and how dry the pitch is. As long as both teams come to play, it will be one hell of a game.

“I love playing Highland, they are a really good bunch of guys and there’s always going to be the extra tastiness to it being a derby game. I think it’s quite a nice way to open the season.

“I will play against anyone, for anyone now, I just want to play rugby. We’ve fallen into the habit of not having rugby, so I really hope people will get the buzz and fall back in love with the game.”

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