Rugby's young elite selected with one eye on short game

ELEVEN newcomers have been included in the latest selection of elite development players named by the Scottish Rugby Union.

Four of the players will be attached to the new full-time Sevens squad, the creation of which was announced at the SRU agm last weekend. The specialist sevens contracted players will be announced next month.

Scotland under-20 openside flanker Hamish Watson (Leicester Tigers) and three Scotland under-18s, backs Sam Hidalgo Clyne (Merchiston Castle School) and Rory Hughes (GHA) and No 8 Adam Ashe (Stirling County) will also focus on Sevens in their first year as elite development player.

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Others to win selection for the first time include Leeds Carnegie scrum-half Alex Black and winger Dougie Fife and stand-off Matt Scott (both Currie).

Two Scotland under-18s, winger Jamie Farndale (Edinburgh Academy) and lock Callum Templeton (Dumfries) have been chosen along with Scotland under-20 lock Robert McAlpine (West of Scotland) and Stewart's-Melville hooker George Turner.

SRU head of player development Stephen Gemmell said: "We have some whose focus will be on XV-a-side rugby and others who will be sevens focused because we believe that that will best assist their development.

"We're also pleased that players who have been identified through the work of our development staff, Rob Brierley and Dave Butcher with the Scottish Exiles, namely Alex Black, Hamish Watson and Harry Leonard, are very much part of our performance player development programme. All players will be immersed in the professional set-up so they will be training on a day-to-day basis with Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors but, equally importantly, they will play club rugby if not selected for the professional teams and train with clubs on a Tuesday and Thursday night.

"We want them to be part of an integrated drive to raise standards throughout Scottish rugby and it's key that we work in tandem with the clubs to achieve this.

"A difference from last season is that the Scotland sevens management would have first call on the four players who have a specific sevens focus."

There are also 27 regional academy players, supported by the Area Institute of Sport network and Gemmell added: "We made it clear last year that we would be monitoring players in the regional academy very closely and that those who demonstrated the attributes to progress could be promoted.

"That happened last year with three players, Murray McConnell, Harry Leonard and Mark Bennett, and we will give those in the regional academy similar opportunities.

"Players in the regional academies are also aligned to pro-teams and, where appropriate, will have some interaction with them during the season."