RUGBY clubs will finally return to the pitch on Saturday afternoon after 18 months without a competitive fixture.

The county’s six clubs – Musselburgh, Preston Lodge, Ross High, Haddington, North Berwick and Dunbar – have been stuck on the sidelines, apart from some recent warm-up matches, since March last year.

The coronavirus pandemic prematurely ended the 2019/20 season and then wiped out the following campaign entirely.

Now, the kick-off of a new season is in sight, with all the sides raring to go.

Graeme Paterson, head coach of Musselburgh, was looking forward to welcoming GHA on the opening day of the Tennent’s Premiership season.

He said: “It’s obviously been a long time since we last played any league competitive rugby.

“Everybody is really looking forward to getting back on the trail for the league and competitive rugby.

“It has been a long time coming.

“Players, coaches and supporters are all keen to get back to some sort of normality in that sense.”

Players returned to training in March and have been stepping up their preparations ahead of the new season.

Paterson was pleased to say many of the players who had been key parts of the 2019/20 team had returned, with a number of youngsters also looking to make the step up.

And he stressed the return was also a boost socially, adding: “Musselburgh is a very social club and that part of it is really important to us and important to the guys that play and those who come and watch.”

Meanwhile, Mark Steedman will take charge of Preston Lodge for the first time. The Prestonpans side open their National League Two campaign at home to Glasgow Academicals.

There is a derby in East League Division One as Ross High welcome Haddington along the A1.

Haddington were within touching distance of wrapping up the league title when the 19/20 season was called off.

Ross Watters will again be in charge of the hosts, with Clifford Livingstone succeeding Kieran Cooney as Haddington’s head coach.

Elsewhere, both North Berwick and Dunbar begin the new season on the road in East League Division Two.

North Berwick, with Mark Coull at the helm, swap East Lothian for West Lothian as they travel to Livingston.

Finally, Barry Armatage’s Dunbar make their way into the Capital to face Trinity Academicals.