AFTER nine months out through injury, former Scotland under-20 scrum-half Jamie Stevenson is raring to make up for lost time at London Scottish in 2014-15.
Over the summer, a plethora of new arrivals have joined the Richmond-based Greene King English Premiership club – 17 permanently and one on loan – and a fully-fit Stevenson, who sat on the bench for Scotland “A” in 2013, is almost like another new arrival.
Having been brought up down south and learned his trade at Blackheath as a junior, Stevenson was always very aware of his Scottish roots with both parents hailing from north of the border.
The 22-year-old explained: “My parents moved the family south just before I was born, but I spent a lot of my school holidays and such like visiting relatives in Scotland so I was delighted when I was first called into the Scotland under-18 set-up.
“I then moved to Nottingham to start a degree course and that year [2010-11] was when I played for the under-20s. The step up to that level was quite big and I was having to juggle my studies with travelling south to play for Westcombe Park and travelling north for Scotland gatherings.
“While I enjoyed the year it made me realise that if I was serious about taking my rugby further I would have to be training more regularly and at a higher standard. That was when I got involved with London Scottish and I also managed to transfer my studies south.”
For two seasons, the young number nine was in and around the first-team squad. In the second half of the 2012-13 season he put in some great showings and received a shock call-up to the Scotland ‘A’ squad to take on the England Saxons in Newcastle – a match which the Scots won, and while Stevenson was an unused substitute it spurred him on for the future.
“I wasn’t expecting that opportunity, but being in and around that squad was great and I managed to finish 2012-13 well with the club too. By then we were training full-time at London Scottish and that was making a huge difference to us all in terms of performance and fitness. The Championship is a very attritional league with clubs needing big squads, so going pro has helped us compete at the top end of the table.”
Last season, Stevenson was involved in the opening weeks of the campaign before disaster struck against the Cornish Pirates in November. He suffered an ACL injury to his knee and knew there was going to be a long road to recovery.
However, the club were keen to stick by him and through hard work with physio Jenny Graham and strength and conditioning coach Tim Harper, Stevenson made good progress and in March signed a new two-year deal.
“It was great to get my future sorted out and then I could just push on with my rehab and get myself fitter than ever. I feel over the summer I have been able to make myself stronger and a better athlete and with the players that have come in the club is in a great state.”
Last season, they finished just outside the top four play-off places in England’s second tier, but head coach James Buckland has been a busy man in recent months.
Among the new arrivals for 2014-15 are five Scottish qualified players in David Cherry, Ross Doneghan, Matt Heeks, Ben Prescott and Josh Thomas Brown. They join Stevenson, Jim Thompson, Lee Millar, Oli Grove and Mike Doneghan as the “tartan ten” at the club while there will be an even more Scottish feel at the Richmond Athletic Ground on 30 August when Glasgow Warriors visit for a pre-season friendly.
Before that, London Scottish play Saracens tonight and Esher next weekend and Stevenson added: “I am greatly looking forward to getting out on the pitch once again. All of us are excited about the Glasgow match because they are the best team in Scotland and we want to test ourselves against them and see how far we have come.”