This weekend the Flybe Ulster Rugby Veterans return to Melrose in the Scottish Borders, in a bid to retain the Melrose Tens title they won with a clean sweep of results at last year’s tournament.
Last season the Ulster Vets topped their pool after the first day of competition with an impressive set of results against the Hague (45-15), Glasgow Hawks (42-5) and Ledbury (65-0).
On the second day of competition they recorded a semi-final win over host club Melrose, before going onto defeat the Border Reivers 17-5 in the tournament final.
The Melrose Sevens Tournament, is one of the largest festivals on the European rugby calendar, and has taken place for the last 126 years at the place where the Sevens format of the game was invented in 1883 – Melrose, Scotland.
The Sevens tournament will be played from Friday (April 10) to Sunday (April 12) and will include Veterans, Ladies and Youth tournaments.
The teams taking part hail from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, England, Ireland, France and Portugal.
For this year’s Vets tournament, the Ulster squad has nine of last season’s title-winning side. They will take on Crusaders RFC, Morgan RFC and Melrose RFC in the pool stages.
The Vets final will be played on Saturday at 5.30pm, in front of over 18,000 spectators, at Melrose RFC, and televised live on BBC Scotland.
The 2009 squad of Ulster Veterans includes 1999 European Cup-winning legends Gary Leslie, Murtagh Rea, Andrew Matchett and Mark Blair, as well as ex-Ireland international Maurice Field who will captain the side.
Team manager Terry Jackson is confident that his side can retain the Veterans title this weekend..
Andrea Hayes, Flybe’s General Manager Market Development, said: “After the success of the Ulster Veterans team last year, Flybe is once again proud to sponsor the team representing Ulster in the long-established Melrose Sevens tournament.
“Flybe’s sponsorship forms part of our overall commitment to local sport for all ages. It is fantastic to support local sporting talent and, on behalf of Flybe, I look forward to watching our guys take on teams from all over the world.
“Flybe has strong links with Scotland – flying out of the George Best Belfast City Airport to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and through our franchise partner, Loganair, Dundee and the Highlands and Islands.
“Starting on May 3, Flybe is launching two new direct routes with franchise partner Loganair to include Blackpool and Isle of Man.
“Flybe would like to wish the Ulster Veterans every success in the tournament and looks forward to flying them back triumphant once again!”
The Ulster Veterans are grateful to the Ulster Branch of the IRFU, Flybe and Kukri for their continued support of the side.
ULSTER 2009 VETERANS Squad: Gary Leslie, Conor Keown, Murtagh Rea, Michael Simms, Andrew Matchett, Maurice Field (capt), Michael Jackson, Richard McIlmoyle, Stephen Harris, Brian Wilson, Ian Orr, John Gunson, Mark Blair, Barry Jackson, Paul Davidson (physio), Terry Jackson (team manager).