NEW Edinburgh Rugby elite development player Rory Sutherland turns 22 in just under two weeks’ time and is keen to mark the occasion by forcing his way into the first-team squad for their upcoming pre-season friendlies.
The loosehead prop celebrates his big day on 24 August, and the day before Alan Solomons’ troops kick-start their 2014-15 campaign with a high- profile friendly against Leicester Tigers at the Greenyards.
They then play Newcastle Falcons the week after, and with injuries still troubling a number of the club’s other front-rowers such as Alasdair Dickinson, Wicus Blaauw, Allan Dell and WP Nel, Sutherland could be handed an early opportunity to show his mettle.
He has impressed Solomons over the summer with the head coach stating last week: “Rory certainly has something about him and has done very well in recent weeks, so he may get his chance sooner than we thought.”
Having grown up in Hawick and played back-row for Hawick Wanderers, Sutherland’s move to prop started when he was in the Scotland under-18 set-up.
He explained: “The coaches at the time were keen to try me in that position and it took a bit of getting used to, especially the technical side of propping, but I was lucky enough to turn out for Hawick YM and Hawick Linden in the position a handful of times and then I made the move to Hawick.
“Propping in the first team there helped me a lot while I was lucky enough to have quite a lot of one-to-one sessions with the likes of Brian ‘Bomber’ Hislop and Rocky Johnstone and that brought on my technique.”
After one full season in the Hawick first team Sutherland headed to Biggar for the 2012-13 season and did well enough at Hartreemill to catch the eye of Gala head coach George Graham.
“I enjoyed playing for Hawick and then for Biggar, but when Gala showed an interest I was really keen to test myself in the top flight with one of the clubs challenging for honours,” Sutherland said.
“I felt I played quite well last season and to get the chance to work with George, a former Scotland prop, allowed me to work on my technique and learn even more.”
A call-up to the Scotland Club XV came during the early months of this year and then he received a phone call from Edinburgh Rugby assistant coach Stevie Scott.
Sutherland admits: “The call from him came out of the blue to be honest, but he invited me up for a trial with Edinburgh and for a spell of around four weeks I was training with them every Monday and Tuesday.
“It gave me an insight into the world of pro rugby while my work at the time were great in letting me have the time off to make the trip up the road.”
The trial proved a great success and Sutherland was handed a two-year elite development player (EDP) contract at Murrayfield.
As many Edinburgh Rugby players before him have already stated in recent weeks, the pre-season training that Solomons and his coaching team have put the squad through has been one of the most intense they have encountered.
However, as it is Sutherland’s first full-time off-season, you get the feeling he is lapping it up and would throw himself into training morning, noon and night if it pushed him closer to that coveted first-team spot.
“I have really enjoyed it. Coming from an environment where you have to juggle work and rugby commitments it makes such a difference being able to focus 100 per cent and my fitness levels have certainly improved.
“On the propping side of things, there are a lot of experienced players around me to learn from and they have been great with passing on tips and such like.
“Like me, there are also a number of other young Scottish players who have been brought on board and we are all just trying to do our bit and play our part.
“Playing in either of the upcoming friendlies certainly would be a good birthday present for me, but I just have to keep my head down and see how it goes.”