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Rugby: Rob Harley fired up by first full cap

Rob Harley escapes a tackle from a Scotland team-mate in training on the back pitches at Murrayfield.

Rob Harley escapes a tackle from a Scotland team-mate in training on the back pitches at Murrayfield.

  • by BILL LOTHIAN
 

As a double British Lion with a key role in a Grand Slam embellishing his 25-cap Scotland career, John Beattie’s boots are big ones to fill.

However, right at the outset of his senior career, that was new Scotland flanker Rob 
Harley literally had to do!

Harley, aged 22, who has been named for his second international appearance – and first start – against Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday in the RBS Six Nations Championship, today revealed: “I was 16 and on the verge of my debut for a West of Scotland club coached at the time by John Beattie. I was so excited about John picking me to play against Hillhead-
Jordanhill, I packed my bag with everything I thought I’d need . . . then got to the ground and discovered I didn’t have any boots with me.

“For a while, I thought I was going to miss my chance to play a first-ever senior fixture but John Beattie came to my rescue.

“He had brought along a pair of boots in which he had 
intended to walk along the touchline, but since they fitted me I slipped into them and took the field.”

It was then that Harley’s 
introduction to the hurly-burly of the club game got off to a painful start.

“They put me in at No. 8 and at the first scrum the call came to pick up at the base and charge forward.

“I got as far as the opposition flanker, who absolutely smashed me to the floor.

“There was this huge melee
with both sets of forwards 
piling over the top of me and almost immediately the shout came for me to vacate the No. 8 position and switch to the 
flank.

“By the second half one of my parents had returned from going home for my own boots and it was good to get an introduction to the senior ranks so early, even if it might not have been allowed nowadays.

“The authorities are very careful to ensure that players need dispensation to ensure they are mentally and physically ready.

“Back then I was the same height (6ft 6in) as I am today so I didn’t feel it was a problem.”

Just eight years earlier 
Harley had arrived in rugby while continuing to sample a range of sports.

“I played football for Milngavie
Boys and because of my height I was able to catch a lot of rebounds under the basketball net. Problem was, when it came to netting those rebounds, I 
always seemed to miss, so that helped make my mind up about rugby!”

What also helped was an early taste of success on the Murrayfield pitch where Harley will add to the debut cap he earned as a 62nd-minute substitute when Scotland defeated Samoa at the end of last summer’s tour, notching a winning try in the closing moments.

“When I was 13 or 14 West got to the final of the Scottish S2 Championship against Gala on the international pitch. At that age the pitch and stadium were huge, but we came to terms with the surroundings quickly enough to go 11-0 ahead under a scoring system that awarded three points for a try and one for a conversion.

“Unfortunately Gala clawed us back, but with the scores level in the final minutes we struck again to claim the 
trophy.”

So, Harley has previous experience of snatching victory, although one that got away was the 2011 inter-city clash.

“I was part of the Glasgow side that was hammering away on the Edinburgh line when trailing 17-21. Rather than get the breakthrough though we conceded an interception which allowed Jim Thompson to score at the other end.

“So much for my unbeaten Murrayfield record, but at least I was able to claim one that had lasted six years!”

Harley also acknowledged that on this latest visit emotions will run high, although he intends to use them to fuel his determination.

“Being capped out in Samoa was fantastic, but as a kid you always dream of running on to Murrayfield. It is what I feel my career has been building towards and while I was fortunate to score a try on tour, I’ve always relished the physical side of things.

“In terms of importance, 
scoring a winning try counts higher, but if we were one point in the lead and they were attacking our line I’d enjoy smashing them in the tackle.

“The contact side is what rugby is all about. It is about being as physical as you can be.”

John Beattie couldn’t have put it any better himself and 
something, clearly, rubbed off when pulling on those famous boots all those years ago.

 

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