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Matt’s Rugby career is certainly on an upward curve.

Written by Gary Heatly @G_HMedia

As he prepares for a busy couple of months with the Scotland under-20 rugby team, former Strathallan School pupil Matt Fagerson (N'16) has taken time out to look back at a hectic 2016.

This time last year Matt was completing his studies at the school, but was frustrated on the rugby pitch as an injury meant that he missed out on turning out for Scotland under-18 having been handed the honour of captaining the age-grade side.

Rather than get down in the dumps, he used that injury lay-off to sharpen his focus and after he left school - with some great memories - he was on the move to Glasgow.

There he joined the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy and followed in the footsteps of former Strathallan pupils like his brother Zander, Jamie Ritchie, Cameron Fenton, George Horne and Murray McCallum in being recognised as a potential rugby talent.

Since that moment everything has been going very well for Matt, indeed it has all been bit of a whirlwind for the 18-year-old.

In the last six months he has impressed with Glasgow Hawks in the BT Premiership as well as turned out for professional side Glasgow Warriors.

And he looks likely to be a key man in the under-20s Six Nations which begin for the Scots on Friday, February 3 at Broadwood Stadium against Ireland.

The back-row said:

“It was great to be offered a place in the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy on leaving school, but it was a bit strange when just a few weeks after I had turned 18 I was training with guys I had watched on TV like Jonny Gray, Josh Strauss and Ryan Wilson.

“They are international players and I had not really expecting to be in training with them so early, I thought I would get a good batch of games under my belt with Hawks and see how things went.

“The good thing about the culture at the Warriors is that everyone makes you feel welcome and is always passing on tips while I find working with head coach Finlay Gillies [a former Scotland Sevens cap] and the other guys at Hawks brilliant too.

“As I said, I did not expect to get a chance with the Warriors first team so soon, but a number of injuries in the back-row saw myself and fellow youngster Lewis Wynne get a chance and I have just tried to go out there and do my best when required.

“I guess the thing you first notice is the change of pace when you make the step-up to the pro game and the amount of preparation that goes into each match and analysing opponents.

“Glasgow Warriors forwards coach Dan McFarland is brilliant at that and he always takes time to look over how you have played.”

Another member of the Warriors staff who has helped Fagerson adjust to life at Scotstoun has of course been his brother Zander (21).

“Zander has inspired me and has been a role model to me throughout my whole career,” he stated.

“When he got his first Scotland cap last year [against England] that was pretty special for the whole family and something that will stay with me for a long time.

“I learn things from him and look up to him a lot, there is a two and a half year age gap between us and there has always been competition between us as there often is with brothers!

“As he has been through similar things in his progression that I am going through right now he is always good to have a quiet word with while our parents also come and watch a lot of our matches and are a good sounding board.”

Matt has impressed everyone with the maturity he has shown to take the last six months in his stride while he also played in quite a landmark match.

In November, the best young talent from the West at under-20 level took on their counterparts from the East.

The match was played at the Oriam facility in Edinburgh on the indoor pitch.

Not used to seeing matches being played with a roof on the encounter drew a good crowd as the players tried to impress the Scotland under-20 selectors ahead of the Six Nations.

Matt, who represented the West, said: “It is the first time I have ever played in something like that and it was weird being indoors, but it is an outstanding facility.

“Before the match we were getting told different rules like what happens if the ball hits the roof and things like that and that was a bit strange, but once we got going it was fine.

“Having no wind makes a big difference and the lighting was also excellent. At that time of year when it is getting dark and pitches are unplayable to be able to play a full 80 minutes indoors was great and hopefully we get to play there again.”

Matt, who is sharing a flat in Glasgow with former Strathallan pupil Mark New, is now fully focused on the Six Nations with Scotland under-20s.

The under-20s are once again being led by former head coach Sean Lineen after he stepped into the role vacated by John Dalziel.

With most of last year’s crop - including Strathallan boys Zander, Murray and Jamie - now too old a lot of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the likes of Callum Hunter-Hill, Robbie Nairn and Darcy Graham.

And although Matt is as yet uncapped at that level many in the game believe he will be a key part of the team during the championships.

He said: “I know that last year’s team defeated England first up and put in an awesome performance so we have a lot to live up to.

“We have had a couple of training camps so far and then on January 24 we managed to get a game in against the Club XV [which they won 34-22].

“That allowed Sean to take a closer look at us and I think that things are shaping up nicely. I am just hoping to be in the squad to face Ireland now and then build from there.”

If he does earn a Scotland under-20 cap in the coming weeks it will just be another great milestone in Matt’s fledgling career which is certainly on an upward curve. 

 Gary Heatly - Journalist





Gary Heatly
freelance sports journalist

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