Club rugby is best route into the pro scene, says Pat MacArthur
CLUB rugby now provides the perfect platform into professional rugby, according to one young Scot who has made a successful transition.
Former Ayr hooker Pat MacArthur was one of 82 Glasgow, Edinburgh and Scotland sevens pros named in the draft to RBS Premiership clubs and the 25-year-old remains attached to the club with which he grew and developed from the age of seven. He played with Ayr as a teenager and won league medals, but also enjoyed call-ups to the Glasgow squad. Once signed full-time by the Warriors in 2009, he returned to the pink and black at Millbrae for game-time while learning the pro trade.
He was back home yesterday to promote Glasgow’s pre-season friendly with Exeter on Thursday 23 August, which will be played at Millbrae as Scotstoun has the finishing touches applied to the new Warriors home ground, another example of the strengthening links between pro and amateur clubs which delights MacArthur.
“Virtually all of the pro players have come from one club or another,” he said, “so we’re all pretty proud of our links and the clubs that developed us and got us to where we are.
“All the Scottish players keep an eye on club rugby, and there’s plenty of banter about who’s doing well, and which clubs are beating others.
“I’ve been fortunate to stay drafted to Ayr since I first joined Glasgow as an apprentice five years ago, and I’ve enjoyed games back at the club. The quality of rugby in the Premiership is very good and it is great for fitness and match-fitness in particular.
“There is a step-up to pro level, of course, with bigger hits and more physicality, but the Premiership is a highly competitive league.”
That is a key component of the Scottish game which has been undervalued, and after years of scrapping it now appears that clubs and pro coaches and players are finding a way to work together for mutual benefit.
Elite development players and first-year professionals were not part of the draft process – they remain with their original clubs – while clubs in the Glasgow and Caledonia catchment area could pick only Warriors players and Edinburgh and Borders clubs stuck to Edinburgh squad members. Five Scotland sevens players from clubs or schools in the Edinburgh catchment were among the Edinburgh draft and three in the Glasgow draft.
Heriot’s have snapped up three of Edinburgh’s summer signings, Perry Parker, Michael Penn and Andy Titterell, while Dimitri Basalaia and Greig Tonks have been drafted to Edinburgh Accies, Ben Atiga and WP Nel join Tim and Sep Visser at Boroughmuir and Isak Van Der Westhuizen and Richie Rees go to Currie.
John Yapp is with Melrose while Glasgow’s Angus Macdonald and Nikola Matawalu have been drafted to Aberdeen GSFP, Viliami Ma’afu to Ayr, Tim Swinson and Byron McGuigan join Stirling County and Taylor Paris and Rory and Sean Lamont head to Dundee HSFP.
Few players are likely to turn out for their club sides but, as MacArthur pointed out, some returning from injury or struggling for games at pro level will benefit from game-time, and more players are beginning to grasp the mutual benefits of helping out at clubs with coaching or at other events.
MacArthur’s focus, however, is firmly on spearheading a new era at Glasgow. A strong ball-playing forward, he pushed himself through the Warriors ranks to become first-choice hooker last season. He faces strong competition now from the experienced Dougie Hall, free from injury, and the latest promising youngster, Finlay Gillies, and all eyes are on the team selection for the opening friendly away to Sale on Saturday.
He added: “It’s a very exciting time for the team and myself. Last year I played a lot of rugby and the team pushed on and got to the semi-finals. This year we have made it clear we want to push on again, and I want to put pressure on myself to be better, which won’t be hard with the competition.
“In every position there is a lot of competition, and training is very intense. Nobody is prepared to give anyone else their position, and I think we’re all looking forward to taking that into the games in the next few weeks and perform in a way that makes it very hard for the coaches to drop you.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons yesterday confirmed that Friday night’s pre-season warm-up match against Edinburgh will kick-off at 8pm.
The match had been schedule for 7.45pm but a statement released yesterday said: “The change, 15 minutes later than originally advertised, is to bring the fixture in line with the rest of the club’s Friday night matches at Kingston Park, and grants supporters additional time to travel to the stadium following a day at work.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West