Former SMC pupil and 2015/16 First XV Rugby Captain, Jamie Hodgson, has thanked the coaches that helped him during his school rugby career at Stewart’s Melville College as he prepares to become vice-captain for Scotland under-20 this afternoon, Friday 16 March. Jamie, who turns 20 in a few days, has been one of the top performers for the U20 side in this year’s Six Nations. With Stafford McDowall named as captain due to Robbie Smith’s injury, Jamie was chosen to help him lead the team as vice-captain in Bari against Italy.
The team bounced back from defeats in February to Wales and France to sensationally defeat England at the end of February, before picking up a losing bonus point in Ireland last week. A win in Italy would be a great end to the tournament ahead of the World Cup in the summer - and Jamie has had quite a journey in recent years.
He explained: “I played a lot of second team rugby through my school career until about my fifth year. Then I played in the ones that year and captained them in my sixth year. That was also when I started to get a taste of representative rugby.
“I always loved my rugby. I played on Saturday for the school and on Sunday for the club [Stewart’s Melville] and I always wanted to play at as high a level as I could.
“I guess I grew over one of the summers when I was 16 or 17 which helped me compete for a First XV place, but I must also thank the coaches who helped me.
“Bryn Lockie and Jimmy Moran [school coaches] helped bring me on massively, being asked to be captain was a big thing for me and a big confidence boost. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the training.”
While at school Jamie played for Scotland under-18 and then, after leaving in 2016, he spent a year studying Math and Economics at Edinburgh University while playing rugby for the Stewart’s Melville club.
“That was good for me because it got me used to senior rugby and what to expect,” he said of his season at Inverleith in BT National League Division One.
“I have since moved to Watsonians and that has been great. The BT Premiership is definitely a lot faster than the National League and more physical and technical in the tight five.
“It is a professional environment and learning off coaches Steve Lawrie [a former Scotland cap] and Neil Cochrane [current Edinburgh Rugby player] is great.
“With Watsonians I felt like a little boy out there in the first game of the season against Melrose. The boys in the team have helped me find my feet since though. It is great to learn from the older guys like Craig Borthwick, Euan Dods and Rory Drummond and those guys have helped me become a starter regularly.”
Jamie has currently put his studies on hold to focus on his rugby duties with the BT Sport Academy, Watsonians and Scotland under-20, and he believes the latter squad has come on “massive amounts” since early February.
“You see generally that the under-20s teams always build through the Six Nations into the World Cup and we hope we can do that too,” he explained.
“We are looking to go to Italy and get the points to finish off on a high.
“Italy beat Wales so they are not an easy team to beat, they are physical, strong, have a good maul and are direct.
“We look back to the Wales game and our lineout was an area of weakness. Now the lineout is firing and the driving maul is one of the strongest parts of our game. As a front five it is great to be scoring tries off that kind of move.
“The heart and desire we showed to beat England was something else.
“Whether we are away or at home we have to bring that same heart and desire and I think looking back to the first 20 minutes in Ireland we were caught a bit off guard. We need a good start in Italy.”
Jamie is joined in the squad by last years First XV captain, Ross Thompson, while current pupil Connor Boyle is on the bench and gaining valuable experience.
Scotland under-20 squad to play Italy:
15 Paddy Dewhirst (Ayr)
14 Logan Trotter (Stirling County)
13 Fraser Strachan (Northampton Saints)
12 Stafford McDowall (Ayr) (C)
11 Kyle Rowe (Glasgow Hawks)
10 Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks)
9 Charlie Chapman (Gloucester)
1 Shaun Gunn (Edinburgh Accies)
2 Paul Cairncross (Glasgow Hawks)
3 Finlay Richardson (Edinburgh Accies)
4 Ewan Johnson (Racing 92)
5 Jamie Hodgson (Watsonians) (VC)
6 Martin Hughes (Heriot’s)
7 Rory Darge (Melrose)
8 Devante Onojaife (Northampton Saints)
16 Bradley Clements (Ealing)
17 Nathan McBeth (Lions)
18 Murphy Walker (Strathallan School)
19 Marshall Sykes (St Joseph’s College/Northampton Saints)
20 Connor Boyle (Stewart’s Melville College)
21 Kaleem Barreto (Marr)
22 Mark New (Glasgow Hawks)
23 Sam Yawayawa (Glasgow Hawks)
Article: by Gary Heatly
Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk