ONE OF the delights of BT Cup Finals Day this year is that supporters who watch all three games have the opportunity to see some of Scotland’s brightest home-grown talent strutting its stuff on Murrayfield.
Both Berwick and Glasgow Accies, who clash in the BT Shield Final this afternoon (12.15pm), have deliberately shunned the import route in favour of local players. Accies do have one New Zealander, scrum-half Andy Greene, but the fact he attended Glasgow Academy when his father Kevin coached the Glasgow district team, and is now back in the city working, clearly rules him out of the mercenary brigade.
Berwick and Glasgow Accies are looking to add the icing on the cake of an already-successful season which has seen both win promotion. The Accies followed bowl finalists Perthshire out of National League, Division 3 - securing their sixth promotion on the trot - while Berwick have made the biggest jump of their existence, into Division Two of the Premiership and the top 24 clubs in Scotland. Crucially, both are proving that success can be achieved with local talent.
Berwick coach Kevin Armstrong said:
"The ethos at Berwick has always been about bringing on Berwick boys - the whole final team is Berwick-bred - and providing a stepping stone for rugby players from Northumberland to higher honours. As a result of many years hard work we’re now flourishing.
"We’re going into Division 2 in the Premiership and we won’t change our policy. I hear coaches in the top divisions saying they need imports to compete now, but, when I played for Jed-Forest it was about heart and playing for your town, and that’s what it’s like at Berwick."
Accies coach Duncan Beattie said: "We’re a bit different, because we’re not a town team and so have to look at students coming into the city and others coming here to work, but I agree with Kevin that we must give Scottish boys a chance to develop. We have nine former Glasgow Academy pupils in the final team and we feel strongly that it’s an amateur game so we don’t pay players."
While there have been examples of foreigners helping the Scottish game, reliance on anyone with a different tongue is clearly changing and it has to be hoped that today’s celebration of home-grown rugby talent can lead to similar days in the national stadium.
Glasgow Accies: R Chassels; M Hermes, S Smith, A Smith, F Lundie; J Doig, A Greene; A Perrie (capt), M Smith, D Spence, N Caddell, G Lusk, A Jackson, A Pogrel, G Simpson. Subs: A Lawson, S Winter, S Thorburn, P Allan, A Longwe, C Bruce, A McLaren.
Berwick: J King; B McGrath (capt), J Grimsdale, C Young, R King; M McCreath, L Cox; G Holborn, M Bell, S Gilchrist, G Younger, T Sanderson, G Riddell, G Watson, R Haggerstone. Subs: G Hill, O Henderson, R Henderson, D Watson, M Davidson, J Young, R Hume.
Referee: D Jack (Madras Coll FP).