With former pupil George Turner being named in the full Scotland training squad for the Six Nations which starts later this weekend, it capped a good time for rugby honours at the school.
Soon after our First XV won the U18 Scottish Schools’ Cup at BT Murrayfield in early December, a number of players from that group were notified that they had been invited to train with the Scotland U18 squad; Michael Jones, captain Duncan Hood, Robert Gordon, Christian Townsend and Matthew Russell.
It was then announced that two former pupils would be flying the flag for Stewart’s Melville College in the Scotland U20 squad. They are back three player Jack Blain and back-row Connor Boyle.
Both Blain and Boyle left SMC in 2018 and since then, their rugby careers have gone from strength-to-strength.
Heading into the U20 Six Nations, which begins tonight, the pair already have 10 and 11 international caps at U20 level respectively. They are also starring for Heriot’s and Watsonians in the FOSROC Super6 competition and train with Edinburgh Rugby - Jack is a full-time player and Connor plays through Scottish Rugby Academy commitments.
The duo also somehow find time to study at Heriot-Watt University and the way they balance all of their different commitments is commendable.
Jack, who starts on the wing away to Ireland on Friday, said “It can be busy, but it's manageable and I love doing all the things I do within rugby and outside of the sport because I get to challenge myself and meet lots of people.
“Last season was a bit of a whirlwind for me. One minute I was leaving school and the next I was playing in a pre-season friendly with Edinburgh against Bath!
“I have enjoyed playing at Heriot’s over the last year and a half and while the U20s results last year in the Six Nations and the World Championship perhaps didn’t go as we would have liked, a whole crop of us who are still eligible this year learnt a lot from that exposure. Another year on we feel in a good place to attack the Six Nations now.”
Connor, named at number seven for the trip to Ireland, can't wait to get involved in another U20 Six Nations campaign and he believes the players in the group who are coming back for their second year need to lead by example.
“Last year’s U20s experience taught me a lot because there were highs and lows and it also showed us as aspiring young players that you have to be focused on every single game and not get ahead of yourselves or you can be caught out,” the teenager who captained the age-grade side at times in 2018/19 stated.
“I'm not going to lie, the World Championship experience was tough for me as skipper. However, I managed to get a couple of weeks off after that, clear my head and refocus ahead of 2019/20.
“There is no doubt that we have a lot of talented young players in Scotland and it is up to us slightly older ones to lead well and create a good team and squad environment with the newer boys. We will face five tough games I quick succession and we have to be ready for that. It is an exciting challenge.”
Scotland U20 head coach Sean Lineen stated “We have selected a good group of players, some of whom were involved in last year’s programme and we’re excited to see them progress along with the new additions, this is a big couple of months coming up.”
The whole ESMS Community wish the best of luck to the team on their Six Nations campaign!
Scotland's U20 team face Ireland tonight at Independent Park, Cork.
Article by Gary Heatly