The schools cup final usually throws up a player or two worth keeping an eye on. In the past John Barclay played against his future Glasgow team-mate Richard Vernon and ended up on the winning side. Peter Horne and Chris Fusaro were members of the triumphant Bell Baxter team in 2007 and more recently Harlequins winger Robbie Nairn shone for George Watson’s just a couple of years back.
Wednesday evening’s final pitches Stewart’s Melville against perennial bridesmaids Dollar Academy. This Dollar year group has already ended up on the losing side of two Murrayfield finals, once at U16 level two years ago and again last season when many of the same team were beaten by George Watson’s.
So, will it be third time lucky for Dollar? Well, not if you go on form. Stewart’s Melville recorded a 41-0 victory over the Clackmannanshire school just a few weeks ago and while no one expects the result to be quite so lopsided come Wednesday there will be one clear favourite when the teams take to the pitch.
Dollar’s journey to the final was probably helped by landing in the easier half of the draw but it may also have been aided by a new app, “Rugby Train”, that coach Don Caskie claims is more advanced than anything used by his rivals. It monitors the players’ wellbeing, offers player profiling and allows access to video analysis with a two-way (player and coach) information flow. The uses are many and obvious and it covers every rugby/hockey playing child in the school. Caskie insists that any institution that is serious about youth development in sport needs to adopt it or something similar.
Dollar have also instigated a new system whereby they have a doctor at every first-team game, a parent volunteer more often than not, who has completed a pitch-side trauma course. Anything that makes the games safer for children has to be a good thing and Caskie argues that the school is simply doing everything that can be expected.
So who will emerge from this year’s final as the hero of the hour? Almost any one of the speedy Stew Melville backline could put their hand up for recognition or perhaps their promising openside flanker Connor Boyle, who captained Scotland U16s last season.
Any of the above may grab the headlines but regardless of who wins on Wednesday evening one player seems destined to be the next big thing. Coaches are wary of talking up a youngster in public but in private there are great expectations surrounding one Dollar prop.
Just two years back Euan McLaren was playing low-grade rugby in the back row in the Middle East where his family were based. Now he is tipped to join one of the pro-teams on an apprentice contract next season, with Glasgow the favourites to snap him up.
With what is reported to be a 54-inch chest, he has size on his side and a decent turn of speed, good handling skills and, according to those that know him best, the right attitude, which trumps everything else.
Watch this sizable space.