Freddie Owsley's move to Edinburgh after athletics background has his rugby career on track

As one of the fastest men in the country, Freddie Owsley is used to doing things in a hurry, but has had to exercise patience rather than his legs since signing for Edinburgh last summer. However, that will all change for the winger tonight when he makes his long-awaited debut for Mike Blair’s side in the home Challenge Cup tie against Brive.

Now 25, Owsley took four years out of rugby earlier in his career to concentrate on athletics. He won a national 400-metre title at under-20 level, represented Great Britain’s age-group team over 200m and in both relays as well as over the single-lap distance, and as a teenager also trained with the Bristol City FC academy. Sometimes rugby players with a background in track and field find it hard to adapt to the variety of tasks required in rugby, but Edinburgh defence coach Calum MacRae, for one, is confident that Owsley can do a lot more than just pick up the ball and run.

“There’s more rugby in him than people will perhaps give him credit for just because he comes from a different sporting background,” MacRae said yesterday. “He’s got some football. He’s clearly played a fair bit of rugby. I remember watching some footage of him playing sevens when we were having a look at him, and he’s got a great touch on his left foot in order to give himself an opportunity.

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“He’s extremely quick. When he gets into open space you can see that other gear like we used to expect from Duhan van der Merwe – and the good thing about Freddie is because of that 400m background he’s also got a bit of endurance, he’s got repeatability.

Freddie Owsley is preparing for CA Brive this week. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

“The thing with Freddie is that we’ve seen big potential - that’s why we recruited him to the club,” the coach continued. “It has taken a bit of time and he has had to be patient. He’s done really well in training the last couple of weeks and it is a really good opportunity for him to now test himself at this level.

“He has been champing at the bit ready to go. It just feels like the right time to bring him into a competitive game.”

Owsley takes over in the back three from Argentina international Ramiro Moyano, out with an achilles injury but expected back shortly. Centre James Lang is also sidelined with a leg injury and he too should return to action in a week or two.

While Lang drops out, five of his fellow-Scotland internationals Mark Bennett, Dave Cherry, Darcy Graham, Stuart McInally and Hamish Watson all return to the fray after missing the 21-20 defeat by London-Irish six days ago.

Freddie Owsley has seen action for Southern Knights earlier this season. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

That last-gasp loss in London meant Edinburgh travelled home with just a single point, but they are still well in contention for a top-three slot in Pool C. Indeed, if other results fall their way, a win tonight could be all they need to finish in those positions and thus go through to the last 16.

However, with the best fourth-placed team from the three pools also going three, a draw or even a loss would not end Edinburgh’s qualification chances, as they have a final pool match at home to Pau in April to fall back on if needed.

Edinburgh: E Boffelli; D Graham, M Bennett, C Hutchinson, F Owsley; B Kinghorn, C Shiel; P Schoeman, D Cherry, A Williams, G Young, G Gilchrist (captain), J Ritchie H Watson, M Kunavula. Substitutes: S McInally, H Courtney, W Nel, M Sykes, B Muncaster, H Pyrgos, C Savala, H Immelman.

Brive: T Laranjeira (captain); V Tirefort, G Galletier, S Galala, P Tournebidze; T Abzhandadze, E Sanga; H Thompson-Stringer, V Karkadze, P Ceccarelli, V Lebas, A Zafra, S Cerqueira, O Giorgadze, S Fa’aso’o. Substitutes: T Acquier, C Thomas, S Bekoshvili, T Ratuva, E Abadie, P Abadie, T Lacoste, A Muller.

Referee: C Maxwell-Keys (England).

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