Rugby: Webster to turn out for Accies next term

Simon WEBSTER, who retired from pro rugby at the end of last season as Edinburgh’s second highest ever try-scorer and the only player to register a touchdown for Scotland in the last four meetings with the All Blacks, in 2005, is to turn out in the Premiership next season.

The 31-year-old utility back, capped 37 times, has agreed to represent Edinburgh Accies, where he will be coached by close friend and former Edinburgh colleague, Simon Cross.

Says Webster, who made 142 appearances for Edinburgh and scored 34 tries, putting him behind only Tim Visser (43) in the all-time list: “I have watched enough Premiership rugby and even turned out last season (for Melrose on the way back from injury) to know that it is largely populated by ambitious lads keen to make a career for themselves.

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“The new Premiership (ten teams) will be a league where players are physically well developed and I’m not getting into something comprising men who haven’t looked after themselves.

“On the contrary, the Premiership will be made up of players who put a big emphasis on fitness and speed.

“If I can pass on any of my experience and help Accies at the same time then that will be very fulfilling.

“I had opportunities to keep on playing professionally, but that would have meant leaving Edinburgh, where my wife and I are very settled and giving up a job at S1 Developments, the Small Housebuilder of 2012.

“Once I had known what I was going to do work-wise, I was always going to play a little bit more rugby and Accies were a team I often followed on a Saturday afternoon.

“Leaving Edinburgh Rugby was not really an emotional experience for me – even at the end-of-season players’ dinner – because injuries had made me feel it had been a while since I was really a part of things.

“But I am fit now and recall every single minute of my pro career with fondness. Highlights were beating England twice in Calcutta Cup games at Murrayfield and playing in a World Cup quarter final.”

Webster scored eight tries for Scotland but rather than look back prefers to focus on the future.

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“I know there are good players coming through, such as Jamie Farndale who, at 18, is throwing heavier weights around in the gym than I ever managed.

“Jamie is going to be an absolute beast of a player, as exciting as Tim Visser.”

Webster and Farndale might even line up on opposite wings for Accies, starting in the opening Premiership match at Currie, depending on whether the youngster goes straight into the Edinburgh team having finished this summer’s World Under-20 Cup as the tournament’s top try-scorer.

Accies coach Simon Cross is keeping options open, though, as to which position Webster, who joined Edinburgh in 2002 and scored a debut try against Ireland the following year, might occupy.

“I envisage Webbo having the ability to play full-back as well as his international positions of wing and centre” said Cross, adding: “It’s a question of using all our resources, which are liable to include Alex Blair working his way back from injury, Euan Campbell, a centre from Aberdeen joining us via a stint in Australia, Matt Coupar, Jamie Sole and Iain Berthinussen.

“Webbo was probably the most exciting player I ever played alongside. Every time he got the ball the crowd would buzz in anticipation of him doing something special.

“I have played in matches where the outcome has turned on a single inspired play by Webbo.

“The most interesting thing is that Simon remains one of the most motivated characters around. He has an infectious enthusiasm and what is exciting is that he is fitter now than he ever has been.

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“How many more tries, I wonder, would he have scored for Edinburgh and Scotland had his career not been interrupted by an (Achilles tendon) injury?”

Webster made his fourth and last Edinburgh appearance of the 2011-12 season in the inter-city on January 1 this year.