(With thanks to Scottish Rugby for this photo).
Stewart’s Melville College former pupil Duncan Hood made his Scotland under-20 rugby debut in the age-grade Six Nations match against England in Cardiff on June 25.
The 18-year-old hooker, who led SMC to Scottish Schools under-18 Cup glory in 2019/20, came off the bench in the 31-12 defeat.
The whole tournament has been played in a bubble in the Arms Park in the Welsh capital and Duncan’s former schoolmates Michael Jones and Christian Townsend are also in the Scottish squad being led by head coach Sean Lineen.
Scotland are due to play their final match against Wales tonight (July 13).
So, where did Duncan’s rugby journey begin?
“I began playing at the Stew Mel Lions when I was in P2 and then picked it up at the SMC junior school around P4 and played with the club and the school until the end of primary school,” he recounts.
“Then when I moved into senior school, I mainly played in school teams and by around S2 and S3 I was really enjoying rugby and it was taking up a lot of my free time.
“As I grew up, I began playing hooker and I was in that position until the end of S3 and then in our S4 Scottish Cup run I was switched to inside centre which I really enjoyed.
“It was quite a big switch of position, but I liked it out in the backs and it was good to be able to improve my skillset. It was also a lot more running than I was used to!
“In S5, as I moved into the senior first XV, I played openside flanker for a bit and then reverted back to hooker and have stayed there ever since.
“When I made the step up to the under-18 team in S5, quite a few of my friends moved up too, so that made the transition a bit easier and we learnt as a group what it was like to be involved at a higher level while the S6 guys really helped us out.”
After the summer of 2019 when the school’s senior players toured to Canada, Duncan was asked to captain the first XV in his final year, something he was “honoured” to do.
“I really was honoured because I had not really captained teams before, so to be handed that responsibility meant a lot to me,” he explains.
“From the start, I wanted to lead by example, so I really got stuck into training and matches and I tried to set the standards for the team.
“The coaches made training fun and the squad were all split into four ‘clans’ which made things competitive too and created a real buzz amongst everyone.
“We also went into a lot of detail preparing for big matches and that preparation and clarity really helped us whenever we took to the field, especially in the Scottish Cup final at BT Murrayfield against George Watson’s College in December 2019.
“I had a great time with that team in my final year at school and look back on my rugby days at SMC with great fondness.”
While in S6, Duncan was so highly regarded by many in Scottish rugby circles that he played his first two games in senior rugby for the Heriot’s Blues and was then called upon to play for Heriot’s in the semi-pro FOSROC Super6 competition against the Boroughmuir Bears in early 2020.
Before that year, Duncan had played for the Scotland under-16 Reds, been involved in an under-17 match against England and was in and around the national under-18 squad just after that Super6 outing when the pandemic shut everything down.
Duncan - who is set to start studying at Bath University in the Autumn - had already decided to take a year out in 2020/21 to play for the Heriot’s Blues and Scotland under-20.
Due to restrictions, he hasn’t managed the former, but now he has the latter and all at the school are proud of the strides he is making in the sport.
Article by Gary Heatly