It has been a busy period for our Merchistonians in the World of Rugby.
Rufus McLean (08-18) recently made his Glasgow Warriors professional Rugby debut in the 1872 derby cup match against old rivals Edinburgh Rugby. It was lovely to see him and Jamie Dobie (12-19) back on the same pitch playing against Edinburgh's Merchistonians Magnus Bradbury, David Cherry and James Johnstone.
Rufus has been playing and scoring tries for Scotland U20 over the last couple of seasons. He has had to show patience to wait for his opportunity and resilience to overcome a few serious injuries along the way.
Rufus and Jamie played together during season 2017-18. Both boys were first-class role models whilst 1st XV Captains and were integral parts of our Rugby programme with their all-action performances, committed attitude off the field and engaging nature with our younger boys. Both started their journey in Merchiston Juniors, so they were well aware of how important it was to the younger pupils to interact with the 1st XV.
Rufus and Jamie have caught Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend's eye, and both have been invited to train with Scotland over upcoming six nations.
I am delighted and incredibly proud of these two young boys. There is no doubt they possess the long term potential to play at the highest level. For being so young in Rugby terms, they both have seriously impressive skill sets, high Rugby intelligence and unique physical attributes. This opportunity will allow them to rub shoulders with the best players in the Country and learn their trade for the future.
Both possess blistering speed, and I remember back in 2018 on our School Games Day Rufus broke the 100m record which had stood for 20 years and ran an impressive 10.8 seconds on grass with Jamie taking 2nd not far behind. I have many fond memories of them playing for the 1st XV and making searing breaks to score or create tries. Both players have huge hearts and are fearless defenders which bodes well for international Rugby. They are both very humble, modest and down to earth, values central to our culture at Merchiston.
Rufus says, "making my debut was massive for me, having not been in the mix at the start of the season and to be given this chance to play in the Derby was an amazing opportunity ... the build-up to the game was very intense with the week delay however playing many big Cup games and Derby matches whilst at School certainly helped me prepare and stay calm."
"Being invited to train with the national team has come as a massive surprise, and I feel extremely privileged. This is an unreal opportunity to learn and develop in an international environment which has always been my dream."
Jamie was Captain of School and also led the 1st XV team to win the Scottish Cup for the first time in ten years. From a young age, he has displayed a natural ability to lead effectively with his mature, humble and engaging character. In the final, he led from the front and was a significant influence on the game's outcome.
Jamie reports, "I was absolutely delighted to be invited to train with the Scotland squad during the upcoming Six Nations campaign and excited for the opportunity to spend this time around the squad as they prepare for some huge fixtures (including the Calcutta Cup first up!). This is a great opportunity to be immersed in an environment full of top-class athletes and professionals as well as undoubtedly some of the most in-form players in world rugby at the moment. There is plenty for me to learn, both from other players and from a team perspective, and no doubt I will be pushed harder and forced to learn quicker than ever before, but that's the time when you improve at your fastest and so that in itself is something I am massively looking forward to."
"I am also fortunate enough to be staying at Glasgow Warriors for the next few years having agreed to extend my time at Scotstoun. Having moved straight across from Merchiston to the club almost two years ago, there was no doubt it was going to be a step up in intensity and level from playing at School. Saying that however, I have no doubt that Merchi put me in the best place possible for that transition – it was almost like moving from a smaller/semi-professional set-up at School to just doing it full time and being able to call it a 'job'. Warriors is a great club to be at with the group of lads being extremely welcoming at first and now having spent more time there it certainly has a family feel to it – much like there is at School. These next couple of years are going to be exciting and hopefully a time to progress my game with any opportunities given. I hope to get back to School soon enough to watch the 1st XV and other teams get back into some competitive fixtures that I know everyone is wishing for very much."
Iain Noble, Head of Strength & Conditioning, has worked very closely with both boys and made significant developments to their high-performance behaviours and athletic developments. Jamie and Rufus inspired their peers and younger boys whilst at the School through their performances and behaviour. Both boys benefited from movement skills related to agility from sports like Tennis in junior School.
They made up for their later physical maturation with commitment, focus and quality practise around speed and strength training. By their senior year their relative strength standards were very high and were both part of the school 100m relay team that came 2nd nationally. They both possess the ability to make game-changing moments through their ability to beat players from anywhere on the field in attack and powerful tackling in defence.
David Cherry (02-09) certainly deserves his first international call up as he has grafted hard out on the lonely road at London Scottish, across in France with Stade Nicois and currently with Edinburgh where he has again worked extremely hard for regular game time and now performing consistently well. It's wonderful to see him rewarded with this call up as he is an honest soldier who has fully earned this opportunity.
Scott Steele (10-11) has continued to impress with his recent move to Harlequins where his game has gone from strength to strength. Scott has also battled away down south to forge his opportunity with the national team. His resilience and courage to go out of his comfort zone was fully rewarded with this first cap against the victory over Wales.
Zach Mercer (13-15) is also on the move to the sunny shores of France to play for a Montpellier. Zach has been a fan favourite playing over 100 games for Bath Rugby. However, he likes a challenge and is keen to take himself out of his comfort zone and push his Rugby to the next stage.
We are extremely lucky as a School to have Merchistonians playing professional and international Rugby worldwide. We hope this gives our boys some positive hope in current times. If you have a dream and are prepared to keep your head down and work hard, you can achieve anything!