When Dan Gamble came on midway through the second half of Edinburgh Rugby’s crucial Guinness PRO14 victory over Cardiff Blues in November he became the latest Merchiston Castle former pupil to make his mark in professional rugby.
Gamble, 19, is currently a Stage Three Academy player with the capital outfit and will move on to become a full-time professional in the future.
As a result, the Scotland age-grade cap, who usually plays tighthead prop, is still learning his trade in the senior game, but with the likes of WP Nel and Simon Berghan currently with the Scotland squad, he was given his first-team bow by head coach Richard Cockerill at BT Murrayfield and certainly did not look out of place.
Dan is one of the most technically gifted players I have coached in terms of positional skills and tactical understanding. Before he came to us he was very well coached and was brought up in Kelso rugby circles, so it has not surprised me how well he has done in rugby since he left Merchiston in the summer of 2019,” the school’s head of rugby Roddy Deans said.
“It was brilliant to see him get his Edinburgh debut against Cardiff and he will get plaudits for doing so, but I know that Dan will not get too high or too low about the breakthrough and will keep working hard every day in training.
“While he was with us he was an integral part of the first XV dynamic on and off the pitch, and this was illustrated in December 2018 when he put to one side his own injury woes to help the team prepare for - and ultimately win - the Scottish Schools Cup.
“While at school he also earned Scotland under-18 caps, but he never got above his station and was always thinking about the team when he was representing the school rather than himself.
“Last year [2019/20] he showed up well for Heriot’s in the FOSROC Super6 and was unlucky with injuries again when it came to Scotland under-20 duties.
“To see Jamie Dobie, who is making his mark with Glasgow Warriors at scrum-half, and Dan from the class of 2019 having played professional rugby already is great, and we are very proud of them.”
Dan and Jamie’s close friend Matthew Currie, also class of 2019, is a centre who is a Stage Three Academy player with Edinburgh while 20-year-old winger/full-back Rufus McLean is a first year professional with Glasgow Warriors.
And recently scrum-half Dan Nutton, 24, signed a full-time deal with Edinburgh having impressed whilst training with them last year and making his debut while still a Heriot’s Super6 player.
The quintet are following in the footsteps of eight other former pupils who have all made big strides in professional rugby.
Hooker Fraser Brown recently captained Scotland for the first time in a win over Georgia, and the Glasgow Warriors man now has 52 international caps under his belt.
Scrum-halves Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Scott Steele are currently in the Scotland squad for the Autumn Nations Cup alongside Brown with Sam having recently won a league, and European Cup double with the Exeter Chiefs and Scott, the Harlequins man, having made his international debut against Wales on October 31.
Another Scotland cap, back-row Magnus Bradbury, is currently starring for Edinburgh along with hooker Dave Cherry and centre James Johnstone.
And centres Paddy Kelly and Stafford McDowall are on the books at Glasgow with the former having played for Scotland Sevens as recently as last season and the latter being a former Scotland under-20 skipper.
So, 13 former pupils playing at the highest level of rugby in Scotland and Zach Mercer playing professionally for Bath in England, but that only tells half the story.
There are lots of other ex-Merchiston boys playing in the semi-pro Super6 league, like under-20 cap Kieran Watt at Watsonians, and in the amateur club game in Scotland, while others, like Rory Stewart-Cox at Durham University, are performing well in student rugby.
“It is great to see so many former pupils playing professionally; however, the school programme is not about chasing these numbers. We pride ourselves on producing well-rounded young men to play rugby at all levels of the game when they leave school,” Mr Deans continued.
“We make sure that every player who comes through our system values teamwork, hard work and plays the game with a smile on their face - and it serves them well when they step up into the senior ranks post their schooldays.”
Thanks to Scottish Rugby/SNS for the image of Dan Gamble