Rugby at Merchiston going from strength-to-strength

Rugby at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh is blooming – and the first XV have fine ambassadors as co-captains.

This season Rufus McLean and Tyler Thomas, a back and a forward respectively, have been leading the Colinton Road school’s under-18s.

And both have impressed, having been named in the Scotland under-18 training camp over the festive period.

Indeed, Merchiston is very proud to have nine current pupils in the Scotland under-16 and under-18 squads at this stage.

Director of Rugby Roddy Deans said:  “As a school we are delighted to have nine boys selected in the most recent training squads.

“This is a just reward for their hard work, commitment and dedication to our rugby programme.  I always talk about ‘money in the bank’ and all of these players have fully engaged in our weekly field, strength and conditioning, video analysis and goal setting sessions.

“This has allowed them to further develop and perform consistently well over the season. They will now be tested at an international level of competition which will enhance their game even further.”

A number of former pupils such as Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Zach Mercer (Bath), Stafford McDowall (Glasgow Warriors), Patrick Kelly (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh), Scott Steele (London Irish), James Johnstone (Edinburgh) and Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh) are all now playing professional rugby.

Rufus McLean and Tyler Thomas

Rufus joined the school when he was eight and began playing rugby straight away.

Rufus McLean

“What I loved straight away was going out and playing rugby with my mates and that feeling has never left me,” the 17-year-old explained.

“As a young player you always look up to the first XV and they set such a good example so when you get there yourself and are then asked to be co-captain with one of your good friends it is a bit surreal, but a great honour.

“The team are coached by Roddy Deans and David Blair along with Iain Noble who deals with strength & conditioning and they really are a good team who have a lot of experience.

“We know we can speak to them whenever we need to and they have helped us all balance our rugby and our school work while the group of players have been great to lead along with Tyler, giving us everything they have.”

Tyler joined the school a bit later than Rufus, now being in his fifth year of studying at the school, but has had a passion for rugby since he was very small.

“There is a photo somewhere of me holding a rugby ball in my cot,” the 17-year-old joked, “so I guess I was always going to play the game and I love it.

“I think the biggest step-up so far has been from under-16 rugby to under-18, but you get used to it and it helps when you are going through it with your friends and with some excellent coaches.

Tyler Thomas

“This year it has been amazing for myself and Rufus to be co-captains and I think it has worked well because we will have lots of chats and then I will feed things into the forwards and he will do the same with the backs.

“We also take our positions very seriously and know to younger guys are looking up to us. We have to set an example as the first XV and hopefully that helps our youngsters get the chance to play in this team in the years to come.”

Merchiston head indoors

The first indoor rugby game in Scottish schools history will take place on Saturday, January 13 at Oriam on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Merchiston and Dollar Academy are scheduled to play, what will no doubt prove to be, an exciting line up of matches at various age-grades.

Merchiston first XV

Deans, who has thought up this new initiative in order to ‘beat the freeze’, said:  “We are looking to beat the freeze and get the boys out playing. Every year our first weekend back after the Christmas holidays is cancelled due to heavy rain, snow or frost, so we thought about doing something different.

The boys will love playing rugby indoors and being able to use the Scottish Rugby team’s winter training facility.  We will have boys playing from P6 through to under-18, from 8.30am to 4pm.”

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