A YOUNG Scottish rugby star today paid tribute to coaches based in Edinburgh for allowing him the chance to live the professional dream after gaining lift-off from the Capital's Telford College.
Ross McCann has recently been turning out at centre for progressive Italian club Viadana's under-20 side and said: "I am benefiting from the work of coaches including leader Murray Craig, Andy Muir and Iain Clelland when undertaking Telford College's one-year Rugby Performance Course."
The consequence of such coaching prompts the 19-year-old centre to insist he was further able to attract the attention of Italian rugby authorities at a time when opportunities in Scotland are more difficult to come by.
"My preferred option would have been to stay in Scotland but compared to Edinburgh and Glasgow there are ten pro sides in Italy.
"Scotland struggled to support three pro teams (before cutting to two] whereas Italian rugby seems to grow.
"Italy have got their districts sorted out with ten teams in a National League.
"For the reason why, look no further than the Viadana team strip which is covered by sponsors' logos.
"On top of that there seems to be a considerable amount of advertising around the pitches in Italy and this is generating money to get players training full-time."
In Italy clubs are privately owned as opposed to the Scottish system where the governing body exercises central control.
McCann, from Ayrshire, added: "If clubs are doing well it comes through. Scotland have fewer (professional] teams but my fingers are crossed that ways can be found to compensate for that compared to the Italians.
"Now I'm getting a pro chance that was denied me in Scotland because Viadana coincidentally happened to be playing a tour match and saw me playing for Glasgow under-19s whom I represented while living with an aunt in Edinburgh – and I am determined to take it.
"I wasn't in the Scottish system (for a contract offer] and with it being a goal of mine to represent Scotland I took the chance with Viadana."
That Ross is seizing the moment is confirmed by Viadana's spokesman, Luigi Malaspada, who – in refusing to rule out further Scottish signings from a seemingly tartan production line operating under the noses of the Murrayfield authorities – said: "Maybe we will recruit more from Scotland where we keep in touch with young players developing.
"After all, we have just introduced a young Scot, Ross Curle, who is doing well at stand off for us. Gary Law, Stuart Moffat, Calvin Howarth and Ian Monaghan are others helping Viadana.
"Possibly this season but more likely next season, Ross can expect a chance to play for Viadana's top team.
"He has shown himself to be quick and an especially good tackler.
"This is obvious in the under-20 side who, although being very young, have just beaten one of the top four in Italy."
McCann adds: "If I'd stayed in Scotland I'd have been playing three under-20 district games a season. At under-18 level I got into a back-up squad which didn't really mean anything because you didn't train with the rest.
"Now I play 18 matches a season at under-20 level. I spoke to (SRU] coaches before I left for Italy and they seemed happy for me to sign a contract.
"Having learned at Telford College about flexibility, weight training, speed development and individual skills after giving up an apprenticeship as an electrician to enlist on the rugby course, I am also now training twice a day, five times a week in a new career where I first got the rugby bug as a youngster growing up in Saudi Arabia before moving to Scotland aged eight."
Telford guru Murray Craig, a former professional with Edinburgh, said: "We are delighted that Ross has signed with Viadana. He is a fantastic player with great potential and we wish him all the best for the future.
"The Rugby Performance course at Telford is a great way to build on existing skills in the sport and develop new techniques.
"Our team of highly experienced coaches provide training to suit the individual skills needs of students, allowing them to get the most out of their experience and helping them to further their rugby career."