Gray follows in brother’s footsteps as young elite push for recognition

HAMILTON lock Jonny Gray will follow in his brother Richie’s footsteps at Glasgow next season after being named as one of five new entrants to their elite development pool, while Stirling County scrum-half Sean Kennedy will take one of the four spare places in Edinburgh’s programme after his cousin, Grant Gilchrist, earned a full-time contract.

The 11 players at each club are part of a 26-strong National Elite Development programme, with four attached to Scotland 7s.

Gray junior is currently playing in New Zealand after being named one of the recipients of this year’s Macphail Scholarship and the 18-year-old will join Warriors in July, with his brother having quit for Sale Sharks.

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Also joining are Melrose backs Bruce Dick and Fraser Thomson, Falkirk stand-off Finn Russell and Currie hooker and Scotland Under-20 international Fergus Scott, whose brother Matt has just graduated from the programme at Edinburgh.

Among those to move up to the senior ranks from Glasgow last year was Stuart Hogg, who broke into the Scotland team last season. All Elite Development players will benefit from training with the full Warriors squad, as well as one-to-one guidance from elite development coach Iain Monaghan and a variety of specialist coaches. They will also be available to play club rugby subject to their Warriors commitments.

Monaghan said: “We’re delighted with the quality of player we’re able to name in the Elite Development programme for the coming season.

“These guys have been brought in on the basis that we believe they have the potential to become world-class professional players for Glasgow Warriors, and we look forward to working with, supporting and challenging them to ensure they fulfil that potential.

“The five players who will be joining the programme for the first time deserve the chance to demonstrate they have what it takes to thrive in making the step up to the professional environment from the club game and Regional Academy programme. It’s important for players in the club game and age-grade pathway to have something to aspire to, and you only need to look at how guys like Stuart Hogg, Finlay Gillies and Nick Campbell have seized their opportunity to see what’s possible for players with the right ability and attitude.

“It’s really exciting for Glasgow Warriors to have a talented, hungry crop of young men on our books, headed up by the players who have already been part of the Elite Development programme and are coming back to develop and improve again this season.”

Edinburgh are also looking forward to nurturing their latest crop of elite development players. Kennedy, 21, who was formerly in the programme at Glasgow, comes in to the Edinburgh programme along with Heriot’s scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Coyne, who spent last season with Scotland Sevens.

Alex Allan, 20, comes in from Loughborough Students and fellow prop Phil Cringle, 18, arrives from Kirkham Grammar School.

Centre Matt Scott, lock Gilchrist, stand-off Harry Leonard and scrum-half Alex Black were all promoted to the senior ranks from the 11-strong youth ranks. Gilchrist and Scott were the first two players to be capped for Scotland while on the programme. Elite development coach Bryan Easson said: “Matt Scott’s been capped, Harry Leonard has played Heineken Cup rugby at stand-off aged 19, Grant Gilchrist has been an unsung hero of the programme – starting all of our European matches – while Robin Hislop has been involved in 12 games – impressive for a prop aged just 19.

“This season’s group has set the bar very high. The opportunity and expectation now rests with a new group of players who fully understand what is required and what can be delivered by this programme.”

In the 30 games played by Edinburgh last season, nine elite development players shared 109 individual appearances, with Gilchrist and Scott forcing their way into regular contention, the latter becoming the first to be capped for Scotland while still in the programme.

Easson added: “The day-to-day operation and integration of the players with the squad is key to its success, as is their commitment to training and playing for their club when not selected for Edinburgh Rugby. Combined with that is the open-mindedness of head coach Michael Bradley, who has given a lot of youngsters a shot at a series of games, not just one game and out.”

EDINBURGH

Robert McAlpine

(Stirling County)

Robin Hislop (Boroughmuir)

Dougie Fife (Currie)

Gregor Hunter (Gala)

Hamish Watson

(Edinburgh Accies)

Jamie Farndale

(Edinburgh Accies)

George Turner

(Stewart’s Melville)

Sean Kennedy (Stirling County)

Sam Hidalgo Clyne (Heriot’s)

Alex Allan

(Loughborough University)

Phil Cringle (Kirkham

Grammar School/Douglas)

GLASGOW

Adam Ashe

(Stirling County)

Nick Campbell (Glasgow Warriors/Glasgow Hawks)

Bruce Dick (Melrose)

Jonny Gray (Hamilton)

George Hunter (Glasgow Warriors/Glasgow Hawks)

James Johnstone

(Glasgow Warriors/Currie)

Murray McConnell

(Glasgow Warriors/Ayr)

Finn Russell (Falkirk)

Fergus Scott (Currie)

Callum Templeton

(Glasgow Warriors/Ayr)

Fraser Thomson

(Melrose)