Stewart’s Melville College FPs Blain and Boyle in Scotland under-20s starting XV

With former pupil George Turner being named in the full Scotland training squad for the Six Nations which starts later this week it capped a good time for rugby honours at Stewart’s Melville College.

Soon after the under-18 team won the 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 under-18 squad.

Michael Jones, captain Duncan Hood, Robert Gordon, Christian Townsend and Matthew Russell were all rewarded for fine school seasons in that one while there are also two former pupils flying the flag for Stewart’s Melville College in the Scotland under-20 squad.

They are back three player Jack Blain and back-row Connor Boyle.

Both of them left the school in the summer of 2018 and since then their fledgling rugby careers have gone from strength-to-strength.

Heading into the under-20 Six Nations which begins on Friday night the 19-year-old pair have 10 and 11 international caps at that level behind them respectively, are starring for Heriot’s and Watsonians in the FOSROC Super6 competition and are training with Edinburgh Rugby, Jack as a full-time player and Connor as part of his Scottish Rugby Academy commitments.

The duo also find time to study at Heriot-Watt University and the way they balance all of their different activities is commendable.

Jack, who starts on the wing away to Ireland on Friday, said:  “It can be busy, but it is manageable and I love doing all the things I do within rugby and also 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.

“That experience taught me a lot and then to get my competitive debut a few months later in March for the pro team away to Benetton in Treviso in Italy was brilliant.

“I have enjoyed plying at Heriot’s too over the last year and a half and while the under-20s 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 while some of the younger guys joining our group are really talented.”

Connor – named at number seven for the trip to Ireland – cannot wait to get involved in another under-20 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 under-20s 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 am not going to lie, the World Championship experience [when the Scots were relegated to the second tier event in Argentina] 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 because we will face five tough games I quick succession and we have to be ready for that. It is an exciting challenge.”

Scotland under-20 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.”

Scotland under-20 team to face Ireland on Friday at Independent Park, Cork (kick-off 7.15pm): 

15 Ollie Smith (Ayrshire Bulls)

14 Jacob Henry (Southern Knights)

13 Matthew Currie (Watsonians Rugby)

12 Robbie McCallum (Boroughmuir Bears)

11 Jack Blain (Heriot’s Rugby)

10 Nathan Chamberlain (Hartpury College/Bristol Bears)

9 Roan Frostwick (Watsonians Rugby)

1 Alex Maxwell (Stourbridge)

2 Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks)

3 Dan Gamble (Heriot’s Rugby)

4 Kieran Watt (Watsonians Rugby)

5 Cameron Henderson (Stirling County)

6 Jack Hill (Durham University)

7 Connor Boyle (Watsonians Rugby)

8 Rory Darge (Southern Knights, C)

16 Rory Jackson (Watsonians Rugby)

17 Mak Wilson (Southern Knights)

18 Thomas Lambert (Sydney University)

19 Jamie Campbell (Biggar)

20 Gregor Brown (Boroughmuir Bears)

21 Kyle McGhie (Boroughmuir Bears)

22 Cameron Scott (Boroughmuir Bears)

23 Rufus McLean (Boroughmuir Bears)

Thanks to David Gibson/FOTOSPORT for the main photos