Just as one high-profile prop forward from East Lothian prepares for rugby retirement, so a younger version looms on the horizon.
Included in the Scotland under-20 squad for this summer’s world championships in France is Robby Wilson, originally from Dunbar but latterly learning his craft with Boroughmuir in the Premiership.
Of course, a lot of water has to flow under the bridge before comparisons between a young pretender and the peerless Allan “Chunk” Jacobsen, who retired at the end of this season, are justified. Many shrewd judges, however, have become increasingly impressed by the scrummaging and ball-playing abilities of a youngster whose dad, Gus, helped Portobello rapidly scale the league ladder a few years ago in the same prop forward position. What’s more, Wilson – 18st and 5ft 10in tall – has had to claim his place in the world championship squad the hard way having shown fortitude in overcoming injuries which might have thwarted someone less determined and which have so far denied him the chance to pull on the dark blue jersey other than at under-17 and under-18 level.
“The biggest problem I had was a slipped disc,” said Wilson, 19, “and even when I returned I managed to sprain an ankle. That prevented me from playing in trials for the latest Six Nations but thankfully I have been able to put forward a case for going to the ‘worlds’.
“Dunbar were very good at helping and encouraging me, but there came a time when I felt I had to make a move and since (then) Boroughmuir coach Fergus Pringle was coaching in East Lothian it was an easy call to head for Meggetland.”
That was the season before the one just ended and Wilson, with admirable candour, recalled: “Boroughmuir gave me a debut on the opening day against Dundee High and I got stuffed in the front row by (clubs’ internationalist) Alan Brown.”
That was all part of the learning process, though and come the start of the 2012-13 campaign, Wilson was to figure in eight of the first ten games including starts, home and away, against eventual champions, Ayr.
“Last season I played half the games I was available for at Boroughmuir and this season I have had a good run between injuries. After so many disruptions I am really keen to get a settled run of games and the fact that Boroughmuir have dropped down a division shouldn’t prevent me achieving that. The target after playing for Scotland under-20s in a world championship is to return and string games together.”
Enhancing Wilson’s rugby education has been a system employed by East Lothian Council, which provides access to facilities and coaching around school time. “Lots of young sports people took advantage of the scheme at Meadowmill and working alongside Chris Dewsnap in a regional academy set-up was also a boost,” said Wilson, who started out at back row but moved to prop as a 16-year-old.
Representative recognition quickly followed with current Edinburgh Rugby academy manager Bryan Easson finding a place for him in the national 18s before that dodgy back disc began to play up.
“There was not a specific game in which I began to experience problems and it just kind of grew on me. Eventually I had to rest and there was talk of surgery.
“Fortunately a couple of cortisone injections began to put me back on the right track.”
There is a possibility that Wilson might even turn out tomorrow for Scotland under-20s when the team make a day trip to Dublin and a training clash with Ireland ahead of the global tournament.
“Things are slightly complicated by the fact I have two university exams this week (he is studying chemical engineering at Heriot-Watt University), but I’ll soon be clear and focusing also on trying to gain a contract with Edinburgh Rugby.
“Seeing Chunk (Jacobsen) do just that proved to me that it is possible for a lad from East Lothian to go far in rugby. I have twice had the chance to meet with him when he undertook skills sessions at national training camps,” said Wilson.