The training squad for the Club Internationals early in 2014 has been announced, and it’s not without controversy.
At one point the SRU introduced this level of national representation to give dedicated club players something to aim at – a cap at the highest possible level out-with professional level, a reward for consistent performance in the club game. It appears over the 8 seasons these games have been played to have become something different – another ‘development’ level to help aspiring young players ‘step up’.
The training squad selected consists of 41 players from 9 Premier 1 clubs and includes 10 players already on full time contracts with either Glasgow or Edinburgh as Elite Development Players. It’s not that these players shouldn’t be eligible for this team – some of them like George Turner at Heriots, stand out in the club game every time they appear – but some of them have clearly been picked not for performance, but for development reasons – for example, Andy Redmayne hasn’t started a single premiership game this season (due to injury).
Some others will count themselves fortunate to be in – fine player as he is, Greg Cottrell has missed most of Hawick’s season through injury; Angus Hamilton has arrived at Anniesland from the Southern Hemisphere and after just 8 games got selected in the squad; while Stuart Edwards has been struggling to win back his place in a disappointing Stirling County XV from Fraser Lyle.
The most controversial selection of all will be the inclusion of Hawks Ally MacLay (alleged victim of a serious assault in Glasgow’s West End a few weeks ago) alongside Glasgow Warriors EDP prospect Rory Hughes (one of those allegedly involved in the assault). With a court case still outstanding, and MacLay not having played since the assault, it is a risky combination, to say the least.
One other question mark over the squad for me is who has declined selection? Coach Phil Leck on announcing the squad intimated that last year’s captain Mark Cairns was unavailable this season. Have other players also declined an invite and on what basis? That the demands of preparation are too much now for ordinary club players trying to maintain a working life outside rugby?
Having said all that, there are some fine club players included whose hard work over the last couple of seasons has been rewarded with consistent performances for their club teams and now selection for the National Club Squad. Among them are Nye Godsmark (Edinburgh A) Pete Eccles (Melrose) and Russell Nimmo (Heriots). Each of them has stood out in games I have watched this season and thoroughly deserve this recognition.
Aberdeen: Erland Oag, Struan Cessford
Ayr: Craig Gossman, Dean Kelbrick, Finn Russell, Peter Jericevich, Fergus Scott, Nick Cox, George Hunter, Callum Templeton
Edinburgh Accies: Nye Godsmark, Alex Allan
Gala: G Sommerville, Chris Auld, George Graham, Rory Sutherland, Euan McQuillan, Gary Graham
Hawks: Ally MacLay, Jack Steele, Andy Redmayne, Angus Hamilton
Hawick: Greg Cottrell, Lynsey Gibson
Heriots: Keith Buchan, Cammy Ferguson, Max Learmonth, George Turner, Murray Douglas, Russell Nimmo, Jason Hill
Melrose: Fraser Thomson, Richard Mill, Richard Ferguson, Pete Eccles, Andrew Nagle, Grant Runciman
Stirling County: Rory Hughes, Stuart Edwards, Jamie Swanson, Will Bordill