Five alive

IAIN Morrison identifies the talented young players who can make an impact in 2010.


Unless you follow the sport closely you may never even have heard of the hooker who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury most of the season and only expects to make his comeback in February. During the autumn internationals, Brown was helping out in the team of technical analysts up on the Murrayfield gantry simply because Andy Robinson wanted him involved in some way or other.

The hooker plays for Watsonians – and boy have they missed him – and he is in the national academy, attached to Edinburgh without ever having turned out for Rob Moffat's side. He did lead the Scotland U-20s team to their best showing in the Six Nations, with wins over Wales, Ireland and Italy to their credit. A product of Merchiston School, he is destined for great things if his shoulders are up to the challenge.

• Don't take my word for it:

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"Fraser's got a great attitude, the desire and the ability to go right to the top. He also has leadership skills, he reminds me a little of David Sole. He has that ruthless edge to him. His only problem is injuries and I hope that they don't stop him achieving what he is capable of."

– John Jeffrey, Scotland U-20 manager last season


With the World Cup due later this year it promises to be a huge season for the Scotland women's squad, and Celia Hawthorn has made the breakthrough just in time. The centre/full-back impressed on a recent training tour of Ireland and coach Gary Parker had no hesitation in including the 20-year-old in his Six Nations squad.

Still a student at Edinburgh University, Hawthorn originally hails from Moffat, Dumfriesshire. While she has spent most of her rugby playing career in the midfield or on the wing, she impressed at full-back during the recent training game against Ireland. Such versatility can only help in her quest to win her first international cap on her way to becoming a permanent fixture in Parker's eventual World Cup squad.

• Don't take my world for it:

"I've been impressed by Celia's attitude since she made the squad and she was not in the least overawed by her selection to the training squad. She is a strong runner with the ball in hand and she is also very capable in her defensive duties, enjoying the contact. In fact Celia has good all round skills."

– Gary Parker, Scotland women's coach


The search for a Scotland fly-half makes the hunt for the Holy Grail look like a kindergarten game of hide and seek by comparison, so let's go for a bit of pedigree here. Alex Blair has something special, everyone agrees on that, and only time will tell whether he can acquire the other missing links.

In the past Blair has been shuffled around, playing at 10, 13, 15 and even wing, but now he is now getting regular game time for Edinburgh Accies in the No.10 shirt. He may get further exposure to the playmaker's role when the U-20 squad plays in the junior Six Nations. Blair has pace and his game management and kicking from hand can only improve over time with some specialist one-on-one tuition from experts Duncan Hodge and Craig Chalmers.

• Don't take my word for it:

"Alex Blair is an exciting talent with abilities that too few players have in Scotland. He has real pace and the ability to beat a man one on one."

– Ally Donaldson, Club Scotland coach


Just because it's obvious doesn't make it any less noteworthy. Richie Gray has the wherewithal to become one of the greats of the modern Scottish game. He is mobile, boasts soft hands and he does have the advantage of being one of the biggest beasts in the jungle. The lock may be young but he isn't afraid to stand up for himself as Jim Hamilton found out in the second leg of the 1872 derby match.

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Gray captained the Scotland U-20 squad in the World Championships last season but only after the initial choice was ruled out through injury. Given that Simon Shaw was the best forward in the Lions pack at the age of 35 last summer, Gray's career could still be going strong when some of his current colleagues have retired. It will be a surprise if the lock does not feature at some point during the Six Nations.

• Don't take my word for it:

"Richie did so well he's bound to be there or thereabouts when Andy Robinson gets down to picking his Six Nations squad. There is no doubt in my mind he is ready for the

step up. He's been one of our best players over recent weeks. His work around the park has been outstanding and his sheer size is an obvious asset."

– Chris Cusiter, Scotland captain


Scotland produces big guys and it produces skilful players, but rarely do the two come together in one coherent bundle. Alex Dunbar may just be the exception. The big centre currently plays for Selkirk, but he should be signing pro-forms sooner rather than later. He has a decent turn of pace, vision and the ability to get the best from his outside backs.

A member of the national academy, Dunbar made his professional debut for Glasgow on the wing against Ulster in December. There are any number of young well-known names coming through the U-20 midfield, including Michael Tait (sone of Alan), Ollie Grove (brother of Alex) and Jonny Kennedy (son of Brian), who has already made six Premiership appearances for the Sale Sharks, but even in this classy crowd Dunbar remains our pick. In many people's eyes he was the stand out back in Scotland's World Championship campaign in Japan and, only 19, he has the chance to do it all again.

• Don't take my word for it:

"We brought Alex into the U-20 squad for the World Championships in Japan one year young and he handled himself really well both on and off the pitch. We are looking forward to more of the same this season."

– Eamon John, Scotland U-20 coach

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