Rugby: Scotland A star Burns bridges the gap at South Queensferry

A WEALTH of European experience is being made available for Scotland's newest club as they prepare to enter league rugby.

Just months after forming, South Queensferry RFC have attracted the coaching expertise of a local, who just happened to have played twice in a winning Scotland A team as well as representing Edinburgh 12 times in the Heineken Cup and European Shield.

Darren Burns spotted an advertisement for the embryonic outfit in a shop window and has been conducting regular training sessions going into today's inaugural match against Moray House with the club's opening East regional league match set for 5 September when they visit Royal (Dick) Vet.

Says 36-year-old Burns, formerly with Biggar, Boroughmuir and Watsonians: "With a young family and living locally the idea of helping out a new club fitted perfectly with my availability to put something back into rugby."

If South Queensferry founder member Alan Carson couldn't believe his good fortune when Burns offered to assist then he was doubly happy when a full Scotland internationalist also began giving occasional input.

Roland Reid, released by Edinburgh last season after a career that included two Scotland caps, has taken a shine to the South Queensferry club.

Burns says: "Roland is looking to the future and keen to gain some initial coaching experience to stay involved in the game. He heard Queensferry were starting out and having someone with such recent insight into the pro game around is really helpful.

"I suppose there is always a danger of expecting too much from players who are, after all, pursuing a hobby and it is unrealistic to expect the level of commitment taken for granted higher up the scale. But having said that I've been very pleasantly surprised by the level of ability. The club is proving attractive to some skilful lads who, for one reason or another, can't give up two nights a week to train plus a Saturday to travel a distance for a game.

"Overall the standard might not be as high as the Premiership but there are individuals capable of playing very respectably.

"I'm getting a similar buzz out of entering coaching to when I first pulled on a pair of boots to play as a wee boy."

For Burns it is, nevertheless, a far cry from when he starred for Scotland A in a 32-22 win over Welsh counterparts at St Helens, Swansea, and was afterwards singled out for individual praise by team manager Dougie Morgan.

That same season Burns was part of the same A team that beat France A 38-22 and his abilities earned him a contract with Edinburgh where he was part of the first Scottish team to win a competitive match on French soil when Edinburgh defeated a Biarritz team including a young Serge Betsen, subsequently a tricolours rugby legend, in the Challenge Cup.

The following year Burns, who could play anywhere in the back five of the scrum, faced Toulouse home and away in the European Cup as Edinburgh narrowly missed out on reaching the knock-out stages.

"I wouldn't change any of that but perhaps my happiest memories of rugby are with the Scotland sevens team," said Burns, who has battled back to fitness after damaging a shoulder in a freak kiting accident when lifted 15 feet off the ground and dumped back to earth a few years ago.

He adds: "That accident when I mistook a pleasure kite with one designed for wind surfing virtually spelt the end of my playing career but before that I was fortunate to play in prestigious sevens tournaments including Dubai and Hong Kong and I love the way that sevens is able to attract new people into rugby.

"My most recent rugby involvement has been assisting the Watsonian team who won the Border "Kings of the Sevens" title last season and I see the concept changing rugby with inclusion in the 2016 Olympics on the horizon after a decision this week.

"Countries like the USA will find access to extra funding as a consequence of being affiliated to the Olympics and that will help attract players over from gridiron."

By then, of course, Burns is hoping to help South Queensferry climb the leagues in a way pioneered by Currie who, 37 years after formation, became Scottish champions. "It's a long road ahead but Queensferry's population has grown in recent years and can now certainly support a rugby club."

The rest is up to Alan Carson and other intrepid volunteers starting with that match today when Lord Provost George Grubb, a native of South Queensferry, was planning to present a trophy for annual pre-season competition also involving Moray House.