Rob Moffat calls on schools to cast net wider to improve Scottish rugby
AFTER returning to the schools game where he started out, former Edinburgh coach Rob Moffat has urged more schools and youth clubs across Scotland to move out of their comfort zone to improve Scottish rugby.
When the SRU launched professional teams in 1997, Moffat took over the Border Reivers, moving on to Glasgow Caledonians and then Edinburgh, with stints as a Scotland’s sevens and age-grade coach in between.
He left Edinburgh in January 2011 after 18 months as head coach and has now been part of the PE staff at Dollar Academy for a year. He is enjoying a return to nurturing youthful talent and Dollar have qualified for the quarter-finals in the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup at both under-16 and under-18 levels. Last week the 1st XV defeated South Schools under-18s 53-38 at Dollar.
But many other school XVs have disappeared, with clubs taking on the development of 16-18-year-olds in most areas. They are reluctant to allow players to play on Saturday mornings for their schools and Saturday afternoons in youth rugby but in some areas it works.
Elsewhere, a lack of co-operation between schools and clubs is having a negative impact on efforts to increase the number and improve the quality of teenagers coming into the senior game. And, in an exclusive interview with this week’s Scotsman Rugby Show, Moffat insisted: “Schools rugby is very important [to Scottish rugby success]. It’s a pity in some respects that we have this club/school divide. I can imagine when George Watsons play Merchiston there will be needle to that game and it will be competitive, and the schools cup has that, but I’d like to see it more competitive. People worry about that word ‘competitive’, but that’s what kids love. The harder the better, which is why we [Dollar] wanted to play South Schools.
“I’ll probably get slated for this but I’m not worried. If you look at the under-18 league in the Borders it’s very insular because they play each other. Why not play the best of the other teams in Scotland more often? Play the better teams wherever they are.”
But calls for a national league for under-18 teams, irrespective of whether they come from schools or clubs, have been resisted by schools, many of whom are wedded to traditional fixture lists.
One of Moffat’s former pupils and Scottish Schools Cup winner, Shane Hawkins, is now involved in coaching at Gala Wanderers, the under-18 team in Galashiels. A former South Schools forward, he insisted they are one of several clubs looking beyond traditional boundaries to expose young talent to stiffer tests. He said: “We are trying extremely hard to get games against the likes of Dollar and we’re looking at midweek to make it work. The lack of school games means players don’t gain experience at a higher level. Last season we played at Highland and down at Northumberland, so we play outside the Borders semi-junior league and we certainly have some great potential coming through.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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