Rugby: Borders legend spurs on his grandson

RODDY GRANT will be playing to honour the memory of his late grandfather when the new Edinburgh Rugby season kicks off.

The 24-year-old Scotland A flanker spoke today for the first time of the pride he took from being guided in his rugby career by Bob Burrell, a former international referee from Galashiels who was also a legend on the after dinner speaking circuit and who died last April, aged 87.

Roddy, now recovered from a knee ailment culminating in surgery which contributed to only one start for Edinburgh in their concluding nine matches of last term, said: "I'm determined to keep playing in a way that would have made by grandfather proud and if I could play for the full Scotland team, that would be incredible."

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Grant's last start for Edinburgh came in the win over Aironi just a couple of days after his grandfather's death.

He recalled: "Whenever I have played rugby I have thought of Bob. I played for Edinburgh against Aironi a couple of days after he died and, while it was emotional then, I'll continue to think of him every time I play.

"There isn't a day when I don't think of one of his jokes or a story about him. A lot of people will know them from his after-dinner speeches."

In fact, there was a lot more to Bob Burrell than sporting raconteur - as his grandson knows better than anyone. The late 1960s saw Bob referee five Tests as well as the Oxford v Cambridge match before his international selection - a rare honour.

Earlier, Bob played 140 games for Gala scoring some 28 tries and after refereeing he became Gala club president and on his death he was memorably summed up by close friend and fellow whistler, George Murray, who said: "Bob was a great humorist, an excellent referee and quite an inspiration to other referees. He loved his rugby and wasn't very good at getting home early on a Saturday night!"

Roddy adds: "My grandfather and I spoke a lot about what I wanted to do career-wise in rugby and was always willing to come up from the Borders and see me play.

"He had such a big influence on Border rugby and will be sorely missed. He was a huge part of my career.

"Everyone said that once they had been in my grandfather's presence they came away feeling better for it. He left the world a better place."

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Brought up in Botswana, Roddy nevertheless credits Gala as being where his rugby career began, saying: "In Botswana there were a couple of afternoons with the dads when we'd throw a ball around but there was nothing organised and it was only when I went to school in South Africa I started playing rugby more seriously.

"However, my earliest memories are of being on holiday in Galashiels and aged about six joining Johnny Gray's mini rugby sessions in Langlee Park encouraged by my grandfather.

"Bob taught me to play and everything I have done in rugby has been with him."

Two seasons ago, Grant, whose father played for British Universities, was a travelling reserve for the Scottish side which visited Ireland in the Six Nations and 2009-10 was marked by a stint as Edinburgh captain before a shake-up prompted by coach Rob Moffat's departure saw the lead role given to Andy Kelly by interim boss Nick Scrivener.

This time round, whether or not given leadership responsibilities by Michael Bradley, the new head coach, Grant is determined to make an impact, saying: "I was injured in the final few weeks of last season and had a knee operation. Now I feel good and with a new coach in charge there is a clean slate for everyone.

"We have our one-to-one interviews with the coach and we are all on the same pages.

"Hopefully, it is a season where I play well and nail down my position in order to push on as a player. Each season you have to improve as a player and I've got to tweak a few things. That means starting well and giving myself a chance."