Rory McKay relishes Scottish club international call-up

GLASGOW Hawks' Rory McKay has played in some big matches in his time, but he cannot hide his excitement as he prepares to turn out for the Scottish club international side against their French counterparts at Netherdale on Friday night.

• Rory McKay

The former Glasgow pro has made a welcome return to Scottish club rugby this season after a seven year break which has seen him take in playing spells at Venezia in Italy, Manly in Australia, Waterloo and Bedford.

And eight years after he last pulled on a blue jersey with the thistle on it – turning out for the Scotland Sevens team – the in-form Glasgow Hawks man is looking forward to representing the team made up of those deemed to be the best club rugby players currently plying their trade in the Scottish Hydro leagues.

Back-row/second-row McKay said: "This season when I headed back to Hawks (where he started his club career in 1997] I was just focusing on turning out for the club and helping the younger players around me. So, when I got the call from club international team manager Ian Rankin asking me if I wanted to be involved with the side I was delighted.

"I think it is a great initiative. It gives club players something higher to aim for that previously wasn't there, while others may see it as a stepping stone to the pro game. Any ways that we can up the standard of rugby should be explored and I am glad the club internationals have generated interest as much as they have in recent years."

The match against the French is the seventh club international to be played since Scotland were defeated by Ireland at Donnybrook back in 2006.

Five years ago the squad was thrown together quite quickly and not everyone was aware of the initiative, but now all club players are eager to be involved and, for many, to be selected is amongst their goals at the start of the campaign.

"All the guys at Hawks have been talking about the club international this season, while I know players at other clubs view it highly too. A few years ago club players often felt they had hit a ceiling and couldn't go any further, but the thought of club international selection has upped the intensity.

"And in the squad it has been fascinating for me to train with a lot of players who I have never played with before. There is a lot of talent in the 22 man party and we are all focused on the French encounter."

A number of the players will have revenge on their mind after the Scots were defeated over in France 13-12 last season. Of this year's squad - who will also travel to Ireland for a match on March 19 - 10 featured in the last outing which was a 31-18 victory over Ireland at Myreside in March last year.

John Dalziel is one of those to return and the combative Melrose man will skipper the side from the back-row. His club team mate Scott Wight is also back for what will be a third cap and he will be crucial to the side's attacking efforts.

Of the players who were not involved in 2009 Currie back-row Mark Cairns gained a cap against Ireland in 2007 at Meggetland, while McKay, Fraser Thomson and Currie's Alastair Hamilton are in superb form.

Coaches Ally Donaldson and Kevin Barrie will select the starting XV early in the week with them and the players looking forward to a big turn out from Borders rugby supporters for the match in Gala.

SCOTLAND CLUB INTERNATIONAL DATES

Fri 5 Feb: v France (Netherdale, 7.30pm)

Fri 19 Mar: v Ireland (Donnybrook, 7pm)

Fraser Harkness (Selkirk), Fraser Thomson (Melrose), Malcolm Clapperton (Boroughmuir), Jamie Hunter (Ayr), James King (Melrose), Callum Anderson (Melrose) Andrew MacMahon (Currie), Scott Wight (Melrose), Richard Snedden (Currie), Alan Dymock (Heriot's), Gregor Wood (Watsonians), Gordon Reid (Ayr), Scott Burnett (Heriot's), Alastair Hamilton (Currie), Alan Brown (Dundee), Damien Kelly (Ayr), Scott Sutherland (Ayr), Rory McKay (Glasgow Hawks), John Dalziel (Melrose), Mark Cairns (Currie), Paul Burke (Ayr), Ross Weston (Currie).