Schools of Rugby U16 squad to tour Japan

Scottish Rugby is sending an U16 touring squad made up of players from the Schools of Rugby programme to Japan as part of its ongoing relationship with Nagasaki.

Supported by the Scottish Government, the Bill McLaren Foundation and Friends of Scottish Rugby, 24 players from the 15 Schools of Rugby across Scotland will spend eight days in Japan playing two games against Nagasaki U16s.

The tour comes as a continuation of Scottish Rugby’s relationship with the City of Nagasaki, marked with the signing of a Strategic Alliance at BT Murrayfield in August 2016, and which has seen a Japanese age-group touring side visit Scotland in 2017 and play a fixture against Edinburgh school George Watsons College.

The School of Rugby programme supports 15 schools in some of the most deprived areas across Scotland, providing opportunities for disadvantaged young people to develop their physical fitness, cognitive skills and personal qualities.

The tour will take place this August just over a year before the Scotland national team base themselves in Nagasaki for a two-week pre-World Cup training camp.

The aim of the tour is to provide the young players with an opportunity to develop, both as young men and rugby players as well as strengthen the links between Scotland and Japan on and off the rugby field.

Away from rugby, the young squad will learn from a different culture during the tour and will take part in a peace memorial ceremony in Nagasaki on the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on the city on 9 August 1945.

Scottish Rugby ambassador Al Kellock is leading on the project and will be joined on tour by Scottish Rugby’s Steve Turnbull, Gordon Lyon and Dr James Robson.

Stephen Raby, a PE teacher from Auchinleck Academy, will also be touring as an Assistant Coach having worked closely with Scottish Rugby through the Schools of Rugby programme for several years.

Current Scotland and Glasgow Warriors second-row Jonny Gray has been named as a tour Ambassador and will spend time with the young squad in the build-up to the tour, taking training sessions and sharing his experiences as a young player.

External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The school rugby squad will promote Scotland’s Year of Young People which aims to inspire Scotland through its young people, celebrating their achievements, valuing their contribution to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally.

I am pleased that that the tour has benefited from the Scottish Government’s CashBack scheme, and the players will be nominated based on their attainment and behaviour record rather than just rugby talent.  

“The tour will also provide these young players with an experience of a different culture that will help them develop wider horizons for the future.”

Scottish Rugby President Rob Flockhart said: “Rugby touring has always been about much more than friendly rivalry on the pitch.

The experience to be gained from visiting a country with different customs and traditions is invaluable.  I firmly believe the young people will learn lessons that will last a lifetime from the tour in August.

“Our sincere thanks to the Scottish Government and our friends in Nagasaki who have worked in tandem with Scottish Rugby staff, the pupils, parents and teachers at the CashBack Schools to create this striking opportunity.”

Al Kellock said: “The chance to take a touring party to Nagasaki arose last May and we were enthusiastic about giving this opportunity to a group that would ordinarily not get the chance to play rugby outside Scotland.

“The decision was made to select an under 16s team from our schools of rugby and having spent time with the group we have selected I can already see the eagerness, passion and obvious character of the youngsters involved.

The players will also be exposed to a very different culture and it is key they learn and share as much as possible when we are there.

“While away, we will highlight all things that are great about our sport and in particular about touring – work- ethic, teamwork, friendship, leadership and much more.”

Ally Rogers, 15, attends Auchinleck Academy and is a member of the touring party. He said: “The School of Rugby has been amazing for me personally, I love rugby and it has given me the opportunity to play with my friends at school.”

We have had a few training sessions already and have got to know each other, it has been hard work but great fun so far. We can’t wait to get to Japan to experience their culture and see how different it is to ours.”