With a new title sponsor, the first intake of players for this seasons Fosroc Scottish Rugby Academy has been announced. 25 players have been named in the full time contracted Stage 3 group, with fourteen likely to train with Edinburgh and eleven with Glasgow. Fourteen females and twenty-four males have been named in the ‘supported’ Stage 2 group, with a further thirty players likely to be named after the completion of the Age Grade regional championship at the end of August.
From the Edinburgh stage 3 group last year, four players have now signed professional contracts with the capital side – George Taylor, Charlie Shiel, Jason Baggot and Luke Crosbie. An additional three have gone to play full time in France with Nice – Archie Erskine, Cameron Hutchinson and Hamish Bain. Ross McCann has joined the Scotland 7s squad, Tom Gordon has penned a partnership agreement with Glasgow, and Jamie Ure has joined the English National 1 team Rotherham. Edinburgh have retained in their academy squad the front row forwards Ross Dunbar, Dan Winning, Duncan Ferguson and Fraser Renwick. The unlucky player to miss out on any kind of professional deal is Gary Munro, who was named last year as a scrum-half from Jed, but played most of the season as a winger for Hawick.
Of the newcomers, centre George Spencer and scrum-half Robbie Davis arrived from South Africa halfway through last season unannounced. They joined Edinburgh Accies and both will be eligible for Scotland U20 this season. Five players step up from the successful Scotland U18 team: Rufus McLean, a free running fullback from Merchiston; Jack Blain, a powerful winger from Stewarts Melville; Roan Frostwick, a physically impressive scrum-half from North Berwick HS; and the highly rated back row pair of Rory Darge (also originally from North Berwick) and Conor Boyle (from Stewarts Melville) who both doubled up for Scotland U20 as well as U18 last season. The group is completed by front row forwards Shaun Gunn (Edinburgh Accies) and Findlay Scott (Jed) who played under 20s, and the late-developing lock forward Callum Atkinson from Boroughmuir, who has never played any age grade rugby for Scotland, but joined the MacPhail scholarship group in playing at Stellenbosch in South Africa for the second half of last season and is being spoken about with excitement at Meggetland.
Glasgow have similarly promoted four players from last year’s academy into their full squad – Robbie Nairn, Adam Nicol, Bruce Flockhart and Matt Fagerson – who earned his first cap in the summer. Diminutive flyhalf Josh Henderson has joined the Scotland 7s squad but four of their group will also leave the Academy without securing full professional deals: winger Sam Yawayawa, lock Hamilton Burr, back row George Stokes and prop Dan York; after losing a whole season to injury, York is however named this season as a Stage 2 player.
Hooker Grant Stewart, who made a number of first team appearances last season and joined the Scotland summer touring squad as injury cover, leads the group who have retained their Academy status, and is joined by Under 20 caps Stafford McDowall, Kaleem Barreto, Robbie Smith and Euan McLaren. Three of Glasgow’s newcomers also played Under 20 last season – stand off Ross Thompson, prop Murphy Walker and back five forward Marshall Sykes. All three remain eligible for Scotland U20 this season. Strathallan schoolboys Cameron Henderson (lock) and Ollie Smith (centre) complete the group.
17 of the 25 players play for clubs earmarked for Super 6. Findlay Scott is the only player named at a club outside Premier 1 (Jed) but with Fraser Renwick moving to benefit from Steve Lawrie’s coaching at Watsonians, don’t be surprised to see Scott join Hawick as his replacement. Overall the Academy squad is well balanced positionally with the exception of back row, where only Darge and Boyle are named. With a surplus of young back row forwards already at Glasgow and Edinburgh (so much so that Lewis Wynne has gone to London Scottish for a season, Archie Erskine to Nice, and Tom Gordon has only secured a partnership contract) perhaps attention is being given to developing players in other positions, but Martin Hughes (Heriots and Scotland U20) must be considered unlucky to miss out this season.