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Nine former Strathallan pupils making their mark in the 2023 Six Nations

Nine former Strathallan pupils making their mark in the 2023 Six Nations

Over the first weekend of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations and the under-20 equivalent, six former Strathallan School pupils played in games versus England with three more involved in the wider Scotland squad.

Photo: Mandy Norrie

Former pupil Jamie Ritchie captained Scotland to an amazing 29-23 win over the English at Twickenham on Saturday to make sure that Gregor Townsend’s men lifted the Calcutta Cup for the third time in a row.

He was alongside Matt Fagerson in the back-row, the No.8 making a quite astounding 27 tackles during the game, while George Horne came off the bench at scrum-half and was lively to help Scotland close out the triumph.

Tighthead prop Zander Fagerson is due back from injury and could well feature against Wales at BT Murrayfield in round two this coming Saturday while second-row Cameron Henderson and full-back/wing Ollie Smith are part of the wider 40-man Scotland training group too.

The night before Scotland played, the under-20s were nearby at the Twickenham Stoop and played their part in a brilliant game which their English opponents only just managed to win 41-36.

Former pupil Harris McLeod scored a try from the second-row before being forced off injured while Jonny Morris made some great breaks from No.8 before he too had to go off at the end of the first half.

Callum Norrie, who played for the under-20s whilst still at school last year, did a good job at tighthead prop and Scotland’s youngsters can take a lot of heart from the performance heading into Friday evening’s clash with Wales at Scotstoun in Glasgow.

Andrew Henderson, now Head of the Rugby Academy at the school, worked with all of the players mentioned during his time as Director of Rugby.

He said, “I am so pleased for all of the boys because they all have one thing in common: they work very hard.

“They all have different strengths and different ways of going about things, but their work ethic at school - and as they have gone on - has always been brilliant and we like to think that Strathallan has helped to instil than in them.

“To see Jamie as captain of Scotland is a very proud moment for me and all connected with the school while it inspires the pupils who are still at Strath because they can see his picture on the wall and can relate to him.

“Matt is playing some of the best rugby of his life while George is looking very sharp just now and it is great to hear that Zander is back to full fitness while being in and around the main squad will be invaluable experience for Cameron and Ollie.

“Cameron has been unlucky with injuries at key times in the past, but is now edging closer to a full cap while Ollie has been capped already and has really come on in the last year or so.

“And the three boys in the under-20s all have exciting futures ahead of them - it has been great to see how they have got to where they are in such a short space of time.”

Current Director of Rugby Nick Hill said, “The players in the Scotland and under-20s squads are inspirational to both the staff and the pupils at Strathallan.

“It is clear now that there is a path from Strath to professional rugby thanks to the hard work that Andrew Henderson and others have put in over the years.

“The staff who coach the teams lower down the school play an important part in all of this because they lay the groundwork for these types of players to go on and do what they are doing now. The coaches help all pupils at Strathallan enjoy their rugby, teach them how to play as part of a team and help them learn at the right pace.

“What the guys mentioned are doing is a clear indicator to current and prospective pupils that if they are dedicated, committed and work hard then they too could go along the same path - having role models who have taken the route that they want to take is really helpful.

“The players are also good examples of how you can balance your academic studies and sport successfully and all of the pupils at Strath are given support to get that balance right depending on their own individual needs.

“We are very proud of what these guys are doing - and continue to do - while the numbers of former Strath pupils playing the sport at a high level just now shows people on the outside what a positive environment we have here at the school.”

To round off an amazing few days for rugby players with Strathallan links, current pupil Joe T started at centre for Glasgow Warriors under-18s at the DAM Health Stadium in the capital against their Edinburgh Rugby counterparts on Sunday.

Edinburgh eventually won 24-17, but it was a hard-fought contest and Joe said, “It was a great match, although we lost out in the end, the game could have gone either way. It was great to play for Glasgow.”

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Scotland is set to face Wales in the Doddie Weir Cup this weekend. Callum Norrie will start for Scotland U20 at Scotstoun on Friday, 10th February. KO at 7.15pm. Tickets available at: https://bit.ly/3wNUJBi

Zander Fagerson has returned from injury to the starting squad for Saturday's game and will join Jamie Ritchie, Matt Fagerson and George Horne in the fight against Wales. KO at 4.45pm.

- Words by Gary Heatly

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