It has been a very busy few months for former pupil Ross Thompson since he left school last summer. The 18-year-old has been juggling a law degree at Glasgow University with training hard as part of Scottish Rugby’s BT Sport Academy and turning out for Glasgow Hawks in the BT Premiership. And this evening - Friday, February 23 - he will face the toughest test of his fledgling rugby career when he starts at stand-off for Scotland under-20 against their English counterparts across the capital at Myreside (7.30pm kick-off). Also in the starting XV is second-row Jamie Hodgson, who attended Stewart’s Melville College with Ross, and the duo will no doubt have a ‘fan club’ cheering them on in this one. While at school Ross was Head Boy and excelled at sport, famously leading the under-18 team to the Scottish Schools Cup final in 2016/17.
In that big game at BT Murrayfield in December 2016 they played against a dogged Dollar side before coming out on top 36-32 with a last gasp try. Ross was instrumental in that win and while at school he played for both Edinburgh and Scotland up to under-18 level. When he left school and moved along the M8 last summer to study in Glasgow he was not sure what his rugby future would be, but Hawks head coach Finlay Gillies took him under his wing. Gillies backed the teenager to start games at 10 in the BT Premiership and along with backs coach and Scotland cap Pete Horne and Warriors’ scrum-half George Horne, who was playing for Hawks in the early part of the season, they started to build up his confidence in the senior ranks.
Fast forward a few months and Ross came off the bench against Wales in week one of the age-grade Six Nations, started against France 13 days ago and starts again in this one.
The results so far have not been positive, a 36-3 loss followed up by a 69-19 defeat, but Ross believes there is plenty to come from this group and is excited to go up against a top quality England side with two wins under their belts.
“The jump from school rugby to Hawks was massive,” admits Ross.
“As a stand-off you have to be vocal and lead the attack and it took me a bit of time to get used to bossing older players around, but the fact that the coaches were backing me really helped.
“Then the step to the under-20s was another level in terms of pace and physicality.
“At the start of the season I was playing with George Horne. He is so quick, I enjoyed playing with him, the pace and the intensity was something else, but I am used to it now and it makes you a better player.
“George helped me while Fin Gillies, has been a big part of my transition into senior rugby and Pete Horne has really helped me massively to try and focus on my game and magnified the little, small aspects of things that I need to do.
“I have loved being in this under-20s group so far, sure we have not had the results, but we are growing as a group every training session and every camp and that is pleasing.
“England will be tough, they are a good outfit. We have watched quite a lot of their games so we know what they will bring and we have talked about it in training so hopefully we can tackle them head on.
“As I say from the outside results look bad, but every training session we have had we have got better and better and when we have come back into camp after tough losses we are getting better as a team and as individuals.
“We know we will come up against really good players during this Six Nations, it is about playing for 80 minutes and matching the other teams because we know we are good enough to do that.
“After school I wasn’t sure what was going to happen at Glasgow Hawks because I was coming from schoolboy rugby to that and there was a lift in intensity and skill. I just went in with an open mind, to see how it went and go from there.
“I have had great coaches at Glasgow Hawks and they have helped with all aspects of the game and the international coaches have helped me to be more consistent.
“I wasn’t sure how far the rugby was going to go, but the university Hawks, Scotland and the Glasgow [BT Sport] Academy have all been accommodating and have helped me devise my sessions, classes and essays around other things to make sure I don’t miss out.
“To play against England is every player’s dream and I just want to go out there, play my game and work hard for the team and see where it takes us. There are also two matches [Ireland and Italy] to come so it is exciting.”
Scotland under-20 squad to play England:
15 Paddy Dewhirst (Ayr)
14 Rory McMichael (Glasgow Hawks)
13 Stafford McDowall (Ayr) (VC)
12 Callum McLelland (Edinburgh Rugby)
11 Kyle Rowe (Glasgow Hawks)
10 Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks)
9 Charlie Chapman (Gloucester)
1 Shaun Gunn (Edinburgh Accies)
2 Robbie Smith (Ayr) (C)
3 Finlay Richardson (Edinburgh Accies)
4 Ewan Johnson (Racing 92)
5 Jamie Hodgson (Watsonians)
6 Martin Hughes (Heriot’s)
7 Guy Graham (Hawick)
8 Devante Onojaife (Northampton Saints)
16 Bradley Clements (Ealing)
17 Nathan McBeth (Lions)
18 Murphy Walker (Strathallan School/Dundee HSFP)
19 Marshall Sykes (St Joseph’s College/Northampton Saints)
20 Rory Darge (Melrose)
21 Kaleem Barreto (Marr)
22 Fraser Strachan (Northampton Saints)
23 Logan Trotter (Stirling County)
Article by -Gary Heatly