Rugby Union: Imports set to make mark: Bill Leith looks forward to the Scottish league season which gets under way today

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The Independent Online
THE McEwans Championship gets underway in Scotland today, with revised laws, a revised fixture list and limitless reserves of imported talent all set to play their part in the new season.

A motion aimed at limiting the number of foreign players in each club was rejected at this summer's annual meeting of the Scottish Rugby Union. As a consequence, team sheets are taking on an unfamiliar look, the situation exacerbated by restrictions now imposed on English clubs.

Outfits like Watsonians, who benefit from a scholarship scheme run in conjunction with the Western Australia Rugby Union and sponsored by an international airline, are among those with most to gain. Four recruits are expected at Watsonians soon, though too late for today's home clash with the champions, Melrose.

Another club with strange accents will be Hawick. The arch-traditionalists have capitulated and will soon be fielding, in their pack, a New Zealander, an Australian and a Canadian.

Meanwhile, as a consequence of efforts to achieve a more even weekly distribution of First Division matches, some clubs must visit their keenest rivals in successive seasons. A home and away structure is still some way off in Scotland, where Border League encounters and seven-a-side tournaments have to be accommodated.

A mobile, but lightweight, Jed-Forest are widely regarded as one of the teams most likely to take advantage of the summer law changes and they, at least, look like relying exclusively on home-grown talent.

Much interest will centre, too, on the performances of newly promoted Dundee High, following an adventurous summer tour of New Zealand during which they fulfilled a five-game programme and returned unbeaten.

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