THOSE who advocate the playing of competitive rugby at an early age will be delighted that there will be an under-15 Scottish Schools Cup competition this season.
That is in addition to the popular Under-18 Cup - both are again sponsored by investment managers Bell Lawrie White - and a grand total of 76 schools have entered for the under-15 competition, with a record 94 teams attempting to wrestle the senior trophy, now in its 21st year, away from Dollar Academy, who beat Dundee HS in last season’s final at Murrayfield, when a crowd of 6,000 witnessed a thrilling match.
An encouraging fact is that, of those 76 schools in the under-15 cup, almost threequarters of them are from the state sector.
Ian McGeechan, the SRU’s director of rugby, said at yesterday’s press conference at Murrayfield: "While I did not take up playing rugby seriously until I was 17, I’m delighted that there are now two national competitions for boys in their habit-forming years. They will provide incentives and keeps the players involved.
"The senior cup is now a high-quality affair and the last two finals have been excellent. Cup rugby gets the boys and their families involved and the introduction of an under-15 cup is an important innovation."
The qualifying cup rounds are already under way while the schools who reached the last 16 last season will not enter the main competition until the third round
Taking part in the under-18 cup for the first time since the 1990s are Carrick Academy, from Maybole, in Ayrshire, thanks mainly to the arrival last year of modern studies teacher Gordon Brown, 24, who props for Irvine.
With the help of deputy head Jim McComiskey, who had single-handedly kept rugby going before having to give up because of an increasing work load, Brown resurrected rugby in the school by starting the Ayrshire League, comprising Carrick, Girvan Academy, Kyle Academy and Irvine RA.
"We actually won the competition and this season we have another two schools entered, Marr College and Belmont Academy," revealed Brown, who has handed over the running of the league to the local development officer Glen Tippet, the Ayr flanker. "That will give the boys ten games, as well as a minimum of two cup ties, plus a few friendlies."
Brown is hopeful of fielding a second year XV this season, thanks to two fellow-teachers volunteering their assistance, and he looks forward to being involved in both cups next year.
The finals of both cups will take place at Murrayfield on 27 January.