by Ben MacDonald
England Rugby’s head coach Eddie Jones insisted that Scotland must aim to become the “best ‘small’ team in the world” last weekend.
Jones, who led his side to the World Cup final earlier this month, stated that although his Scottish counterpart Gregor Townsend has got his side playing the right way, the team’s physical conditioning was wrong as they succumbed to a group stage elimination following a loss against the tournament’s host side, Japan.
Little does the 59-year old Australian know, however, is that Scottish Rugby are already looking to the future with a number of performance programmes, clubs and schools installed throughout the country.
The governing body lists 200 clubs on their website for people interested in taking up the sport, as well as three different programmes for the most promising participants, playing in different regions.
One such scheme, the Scottish Qualified Programme, lists current Scotland Internationals Ali Price, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson as graduates. By registering details or nominating somebody, a player, either born in the country or has Scottish parents or grandparents, is offered opportunities and support to reach their full potential.
Gavin Harper, Editor of SCRUM Magazine, Scotland’s only dedicated rugby publication, has praised the Union’s desire to increase the number of young people playing the sport.
Harper said: “Scottish Rugby has done great work with its academies in recent years and we’re starting to see the results of that now, with a crop of players coming through the professional ranks at Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors who have all benefited from their academy programmes.
“In their formative years, the country’s most promising young players are now hugely benefiting from increased training – including strength and conditioning – to prepare them for the rigours of playing top-level professional rugby.”