With Laura Muir just back from Potchefstroom South Africa and about to return there some of Scotland’s young rugby talent is heading in the same direction
Gavin Harper January 8, 2019
A trio of Scottish Rugby’s Fosroc Academy players have today (Tuesday) been awarded this year’s Macphail Scholarship, and will this weekend travel to spend five months in the high-performance training facility at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
The trio – Melrose’s Jacob Henry, Thomas Jeffrey of Jed-Forest and Glasgow Hawks’ Kristian Kay – have been awarded the scholarship founded in memory of former Scotland internationalist John Macphail.
They 18-year-olds join the likes of Scotland caps John Barclay, Finn Russell, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray and Adam Ashe in receiving the scholarship.
The programme funded by the Robertson Trust – now in its 14th year – previously sent emerging players and coaches to Canterbury in New Zealand for a 15-week programme, changing to South Africa and extending the stay for the first time last year.
The extended opportunity is designed to deepen the still relatively new relationship and enable players to benefit from a longer period of time, while keeping aligned to the northern hemisphere season.
Thomas Jeffrey came through the ranks at Peebles, representing Scotland at U16, U17 and U18, before moving to Riverside Park at the start of the season.
He said: “I’m buzzing about it. I met one of the guys who went last year who’d made a video about what it was like and it looks like an amazing facility and opportunity.
“It’s still not really sunk in that I’ll be in South Africa next week but I’m really looking forward to getting out there and meeting new people in a new rugby environment.”
Jacob Henry, who represented Scotland U16 and U17 before injury ruled him out of the U18 side, started his rugby in the Scottish Highlands, with Ross Sutherland, before moving to Highland RFC for his final year of U18 rugby.
He then secured a spot in the Borders & East Lothian Academy, moving to Galashiels to stay in residence at Heriot Watt University and ply his trade at Melrose.
He said: “It’s quite surreal really. I don’t think it’ll sink in until I’m there. I think it helps that I’ve lived away from home already as part of the academy.
“I’m really happy with how it’s all come about. I was honoured to be put forward for what’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s a real privilege. It looks amazing.”
Kristian Kay’s rugby career began with Buckingham RFC before he earned a scholarship at Stowe School and joined the Wasps academy.
As his rugby developed, he made enquiries about Scottish Rugby’s SQ (Scottish Qualified) programme through his school, attending local sessions before securing a place in the Glasgow & West academy and joining Glasgow Hawks, ultimately returning to the former home of parents Jason and Catriona who hail from the city and where he once lived at young age.
Kay, who has represented Scotland at U17, U18 and U19 level, said: “I was really surprised when I was asked to go on the scholarship. It’s a really awesome opportunity that I wouldn’t have got otherwise.
“I’m just really excited to get out there. It’s a five-month, intensive programme so it’s a great opportunity to improve personally.
“Former South Africa scrum-half Neil de Kock is at the academy as a specialist scrum-half coach, so I’m really looking forward to working with him.”
The Macphail Scholarship was established in 2005, as a partnership between The Robertson Trust and Scottish Rugby.
Created in memory of ex-Scotland Internationalist John Macphail (1949-1951), the scholarship was developed for talented young players but has also supported coaches, including Iain Monaghan and Chris Paterson.
Scottish Rugby Technical Director, Stephen Gemmell, added: “Thanks again to The Robertson Trust and Macphail family for their continued support of Scottish Rugby.
“Since its inception in 2005 the partnership has allowed us to send some of our most promising young players to other parts of the world to develop in new environments, with different coaches, fresh challenges and at world-class facilities.
“This year we will again send U19 players to the world class Stellenbosch Academy of Sport in South Africa, where they will spend five months experiencing a different culture, undertaking an intense programme, training and playing alongside players from different countries, all as part of their own individual development plans.
“The scholarship has played an important role in a number of our current professional and international players’ careers and will, I’m sure, provide a launch pad for Jacob, Henry and Kristian to accelerate their development as part of the Fosroc Scottish Rugby Academy.”
Mark Laing, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee of the Robertson Trust, said: “Jacob, Kristian and Thomas have exceptional potential and I’m in no doubt all three will prove to be worthy recipients of the scholarship.
“I, along with the Macphail family and all at The Robertson Trust, look forward to hearing about the players’ progress throughout their time in South Africa and beyond.
“Through the John Macphail Scholarship, The Robertson Trust has assisted in the development of some of Scotland’s brightest young rugby talent for over 13 years.
“We are proud of this legacy and believe the programme’s new setup, and all the experiences it will bring, will help to accelerate the development of even more professional and international players going forward.”
John Macphail Rugby Scholarship recipients:
2018: Thomas Jeffrey,Jacob Henry,Kristian Kay
Updated 14:47 - 8 Jan 2019 by Hugh Barrow
2017: Angus Fraser, Andrew Jardine and Guy Kelly
2016: Patrick Kelly, Ross McCann, Mike Blair (coach) and Calum Forrester (coach)
2015: Callum Hunter-Hill, Ben Robbins, Ben Cairns (coach) and Duncan Hodge (coach)
2014: Adam Ashe, Ewan McQuillin, Don Caskie (coach) and Kenny Murray (coach)
2013: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Finn Russell, Shade Munro (coach) and Alex Duncan (coach)
2012: Jonny Gray, Gregor Hunter, Chris Paterson (coach) and Ben Fisher (coach)
2011: Grant Gilchrist, Harry Leonard, George Turner and Ian Monaghan (coach)
2010: Finlay Gillies
2009: Lewis Niven
2008: Roddy Grant
2007: Kevin Bryce
2006: Graham Hogg
2005: John Barclay