Three years and one month have passed since the first intake to the newly inaugurated Scottish Rugby Academy was announced. It’s a system that will be judged by the quantity and quality of players it produces for the professional game in Scotland, so with the 4th generation of players revealed yesterday how has the Academy fared this far?
The headline number is the 34 men who have graduated from the Academy and gone on to sign full-time professional contracts. This is a hit rate of around 72% from Stage 3 players and 29 of these young lads will still be in situ for the start of the 2018/19 season.
14 for Glasgow Warriors in the PRO14 (all are still with the club)
13 for Edinburgh in the PRO14 (10 are still with the club)
2 for Scotland 7s (both new for 2018/19)
1 for Newcastle in the Premiership (still with the club)
1 for Leicester Tigers in the Premiership (still with the club)
1 for Yorkshire Carnegie in the Championship
1 for London Scottish in the Championship
1 for Stade Nicois in Federale 1 (new for 2018/19)
Robert Beattie (Glasgow Hawks) and Thomas Gordon (Currie) have also progressed to Partnership Contracts with the Warriors. Add in another 3 players who are currently still in the Academy but who have already featured in the PRO14 (Stafford McDowall, Kaleem Barreto and Grant Stewart – all for Glasgow) and it’s clear the SRA is making a significant contribution to the pro teams and beyond.
The academy system is helping to drive an expectation that young players arrive in the professional game with the physical / mental abilities and skillset required to contribute straight away. That means first team appearances early in their career and in an environment with only two pro teams it also means fast progression to the national side for those with the right capabilities.
There are already 7 capped SRA graduates:
Ali Price (Glasgow)
Nick Grigg (Glasgow)
Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow)
Murray McCallum (Edinburgh)
Lewis Carmichael (Edinburgh)
Matt Fagerson (Glasgow)
George Horne (Glasgow)
In addition Scott Cummings and James Malcolm (both Glasgow) were involved in this season’s 6 Nations squads – although without making it into a matchday 23.
A total of 10 Academy players have featured for Scotland 7s over the past three years with the abbreviated form of the game proving particularly beneficial for the development of scrum half George Horne.
There are four academies. Attached to Edinburgh are Borders & East Lothian and Edinburgh. Attached to Glasgow Warriors are Caledonia and Glasgow & the West. Most of the intake at the top Stage 3 level is focused on the Edinburgh and Glasgow academies to allow them to maximise time with the linked pro teams. As things stand of the 34 men who have gone on to full-time professional contracts:
4 came through the Borders & East Lothian
11 came through Edinburgh
19 came through Glasgow & the West
Before anyone gets too much of a downer on Caledonia, they have only had six Stage 3 players in the last three seasons. Lewis Wynne and Bruce Flockhart transferred to Glasgow & the West before signing on with the Warriors. Murray McCallum moved to Edinburgh – academy then pro team. All three of last season’s Caley intake transferred to Glasgow & the West during the year and there’s a good chance that Kaleem Barreto and Euan McLaren will step up to full-time rugby in the not too distant future.
The graduating class of 2016 produced 11 pros; the class of 2017 brought through 12; and the class of 2018 has already seen 11 players pick up full-time contracts.
The 34 men who have graduated have covered all the positions on a rugby pitch – but some in more depth than others:
Back three – 4
Centres – 5
Stand offs – 2
Scrum halves – 4
Props – 4
Hookers – 4
Locks – 5
Back rows – 7
Jason Baggott, who has signed for Edinburgh starting next season, is the only stand off to come through the Academy system to one of the pro teams – so far. Fellow 10 Josh Henderson will play 7s this season and given in XVs he’s featured at full back quite frequently his future may lie away from the main play-making role.
It’s been noticeable that in recent years Scotland U20 have tended to look to exiles to cover the 10 shirt. 2017 saw Connor Eastgate (Wasps) deployed there; 2016 was Adam Hastings (Bath – now with Glasgow); and 2015’s fly half was primarily Rory Hutchinson (Northampton).
Prop has been a bit of a slow burn for the SRA but Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow) and Murray McCallum (Edinburgh) have had breakthrough seasons for club and country. There’s future talent to come with the likes of Adam Nicol and Euan McLaren among a group of props who may reduce Scotland’s reliance on importing big men.
The Academies have also played a significant role in helping Scotland Women deliver improved results and performances in recent seasons. There are now 8 women contracted by Scottish Rugby – 7 of them progressed through the SRA:
3 playing in England
Sarah Bonar (lock / back row – Loughborough Lightning)
Jade Konkel (number 8 / prop – Harlequins)
Lisa Thomson (centre – DMP Sharks)
3 playing in France
Lisa Martin (stand off / centre – LMRCV)
Helen Nelson (centre – Montpellier)
Chloe Rollie (full back – LMRCV)
2 playing in Scotland
Megan Kennedy (prop – Stirling County)
Lana Skeldon (hooker – Watsonians)
In addition there are another 11 women who are currently supported players with in the Academy system, 7 of whom have already won full international honours for Scotland. With investment in the women’s game increasing with the goal of qualification for the next World Cup in 2021 there are some big opportunities ahead. The Academy system will hopefully help as many players as possible reach their potential.
The full list
For the completists out there here are all 34 men that have gone pro after graduating from the latest iteration of the Scottish Rugby Academy:
Jason Baggott (stand off – Edinburgh)
Jamie Bhatti (LH prop – Glasgow)
Lewis Carmichael (lock – Edinburgh)
Jack Cosgrove (LH prop – Edinburgh, now with Bristol)
Luke Crosbie (flanker – Edinburgh)
Scott Cummings (lock – Glasgow)
Andrew Davidson (lock – Newcastle)
Archie Erskine (back row – Stade Nicois)
Matt Fagerson (back row – Glasgow)
Cameron Fenton (hooker – Edinburgh)
Robbie Fergusson (centre – London Scottish, now Scotland 7s)
Bruce Flockhart (number 8 – Glasgow)
Hugh Fraser (scrum half – Edinburgh, now left pro rugby)
Tom Galbraith (centre – Edinburgh, now released)
Ross Graham (hooker – Yorkshire Carnegie, now with Watsonians)
Darcy Graham (wing / full back – Edinburgh)
Nick Grigg (centre – Glasgow)
Josh Henderson (stand off / full back – Scotland 7s)
George Horne (scrum half – Glasgow)
Calum Hunter-Hill (lock – Edinburgh)
Patrick Kelly (centre – Glasgow)
Jake Kerr (hooker – Leicester Tigers)
James Malcolm (hooker – Glasgow)
Murray McCallum (LH / TH prop – Edinburgh)
Ross McCann (wing – Scotland 7s)
Kiran McDonald (lock – Glasgow)
Ally Miller (number 8 – Edinburgh)
Robbie Nairn (wing – Glasgow)
Adam Nicol (TH prop – Glasgow)
Ali Price (scrum half – Glasgow)
Charlie Shiel (scrum half – Edinburgh)
Matt Smith (flanker – Glasgow)
George Taylor (centre – Edinburgh)
Lewis Wynne (flanker – Glasgow)
Picture of Ali Price (the first man from the new SRA to turn pro and the first to win a full Scotland cap) courtesy of Adrian Henry for the excellent Rugby People.