2024 Macphail Rugby Scholarship recipients unveiled

Ben White, Joss Arnold and Jack Craig will spend five months embedded at at the high-performance training facility at Stellenbosch University

Jim McCormick (CEO of the Robertson Trust), Ben White, Joss Arnold, Jack Craig and Stephen Gemmell (Scottish Rugby Technical & Operations Director) at the 2024 Macphail Scholarship announcement. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Jim McCormick (CEO of the Robertson Trust), Ben White, Joss Arnold, Jack Craig and Stephen Gemmell (Scottish Rugby Technical & Operations Director) at the 2024 Macphail Scholarship announcement. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE recipients of this year’s Macphail Rugby Scholarship were unveiled at Murrayfield this morning, with Biggar prop Ben White, Musselburgh back-five forward Joss Arnold and Ayr centre Jack Craig being given the opportunity to spend five months embedded at the high-performance training facility at Stellenbosch University from mid-January to mid-June next year.

This is the 17th year of the Macphail Scholarship, which was created in memory of ex-Scotland Internationalist John Macphail (1949-1951) as a partnership between The Robertson Trust and Scottish Rugby, providing valuable rugby and life experience to a host of aspiring players and coaches since  John Barclay was the first recipient back in 2005.

Grant Gilchrist, George Turner, Jonny Gray and Finn Russell are among the eight players to have progressed to full international honours after being part of the Macphail Scholarship programme. Several more have played pro rugby for Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors and/or the Scotland 7s team.


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18 year-old loose-head prop White plays started out on his rugby career as minis player at Biggar, before progressing through the Peebles Colts set-up to be part of the Under-18 side which reached the final of last year’s Youth Cup. He played Scotland Under-18s last year and returned to Hartreemill at the start of this season to play regularly at National One level.

“As a front-row player, South Africa really is the place to learn about playing that position, there is nowhere better,” he said. “I want to improve my scrummaging technique when I am over there and really nail my set-piece work so that I can become a better all-round player.”

Arnold can play as a second-row or flanker and began his rugby journey at Haddington Rugby Club before spending the last two years of his schooling at Loretto. He has featured for both Scotland Under-17s and Scotland Under-18s, played for Edinburgh Under-18s in a recent 1872 victory over Glasgow Warriors and is a regular in the Musselburgh squad currently pushing hard for a Premiership play-off spot.

“I am taking a gap year after school and had thought about going travelling and playing a bit of rugby abroad, but this is the best of both worlds because I get to go to a great country, but also work hard on my rugby in a top-quality environment,” he said.

“I really want to use this trip to take my rugby to the next level and then see how far I can go.”

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Craig plays for the Ayr side who will win promotion from National One into the Premiership if they manage a home win against GHK on Saturday, and was a gold medal winner with Scotland 7s in the Junior Commonwealth Games earlier this year. He is the brother of former Scotland 7s captain Robbie Fergusson, and his proffered position is outside-centre although he can also play wing or full-back.

“As soon as you hear the words ‘rugby’ and ‘South Africa’ in the same sentence it is exciting, so it is a chance that I jumped at,” said the former Belmont Academy pupil.

“Watching Robbie playing for Glasgow Warriors and London Scottish as I was growing up was brilliant and now seeing him do his thing on the world sevens stage inspires me and he’s a big help to me.”

Scottish Rugby Technical & Operations Director, Stephen Gemmell, added: “The Macphail Scholarship consistently delivers a special experience for some of the best young players in the country to develop and grow in a new environment.

“We’d like to thank The Robertson Trust and Macphail family for enabling Ben, Joss and Jack to experience a world class playing environment in South Africa that will enhance them as players and people at the start of their rugby journey.

“The Scholarship has played a vital role in the careers of international players and we know this next set of players will also reap the benefits from this experience.”

Jim McCormick, CEO of the Robertson Trust said: “We are proud to have played a part in the development of the best young players and coaches in Scotland since 2005.

“All at The Robertson Trust would like to wish Ben, Joss and Jack well for their time in South Africa and their careers. The track record of players who have been through the Scholarship speaks for itself and we hope these players will reap similar benefits.

“Playing in South Africa represents a great opportunity for them to develop as players and people. I look forward to following their progress.”

John Macphail Rugby Scholarship recipients –

  • 2024: Ben White, Joss Arnold, Jack Craig
  • 2023: Guy Kirkpatrick, Monroe Job, Callum Smyth
  • 2020: Mikey Heron, Cole Lamberton, Adam Scott
  • 2019: Thomas Jeffrey, Jacob Henry, Kristian Kay
  • 2018: 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

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About David Barnes 3817 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

12 Comments

  1. A good opportunity and reward for these boys and one that I am sure will have a positive impact on their futures whether they make it as professional rugby players or not. Well done to all and good luck.

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  2. Sadly this scholarship has produced no great Scotland players for a decade, something that must change because we desperately need the Finn Russells and John Barclays of t5omorrow to poke their heads through the U20 weeds. So good luck to these young lads, embarking on a great adventure at the start of what will hopefully be illustrious rugby careers.

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    • Perhaps TOL could consider a ‘Where are they now?’ for the recent recipients so there can be some benchmarking of the success of this initiative. For a period there was relative success in ‘picking winners’ so what has changed in recent times? Given that Scotland struggles to produce international quality players in some positions, shouldn’t scholarships be directed towards players in these positions? Glad to see that coaches are no longer the beneficiaries from the SRU.

      • Tbf in recent years recipients have been given chance of getting meaningful game time at pro level due to the obsession with spending millions on foreign imports who achieve nothing. Look how little game time the young 2nd rows get at Glasgow while Peterson and Manjezi play every week. Harry Patterson and Logan Trotter have a scandalous number of games between them too so it’s not just forwards that are locked out. It might be defendable if it wasn’t for the fact that our pro teams have one trophy between to show for the decades of pro rugby. Short termism done for decades leaves us with no success and no prospect of retaining even mediocrity.

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      • I think its probably important to recognise the purpose of the scholarship has maybe changed over the years, and therefore those eligible and/or chosen have changed as they have been trying to achieve different things via this scholarship at different times, but to answer your request about ‘Where are they now?’
        John Barclay, Scotland Captain, now retired, Media pundit
        Graham Hogg, played Scotland 7s, now Development Officer in Hawick
        Kevin Bryce, 3 Scotland caps, now retired
        Roddy Grant, played pro rugby at Edinburgh, now coaching with Ulster Rugby
        Lewis Niven, played pro rugby at Edinburgh, retired through injury I think?
        Fin Gillies, played pro rugby at Glasgow, retired through injury, now school PE
        teacher, and coach at Heriots Rugby Super Series
        Grant Gilchrist, Scotland
        Harry Leonard, played pro rugby at Edinburgh, then semi-pro in London, retired?
        George Turner, Scotland
        Jonny Gray, Scotland
        Gregor Hunter, played pro rugby at Edinburgh, injury interrupted career, now PE
        teacher, and coaching at Currie
        S H Clyne Scotland, now playing at Treviso
        Finn Russell British & Irish Lions, Scotland
        Adam Ashe Scotland, now retired, budding entrepreneur
        Ewan McQuillin played pro rugby at Glasgow, now retired?
        C Hunter Hill Saracens
        Ben Robbins Scotland 7s, now playing at Esher
        Paddy Kelly GB 7s, now playing at Rosslyn Park
        Ross McCann GB 7s
        Angus Fraser Glasgow Warriors
        Andrew Jardine Biggar RFC
        Guy Kelly was playing at Biggar RFC possibly injured this season?
        Tom Jeffrey Currie Chieftains
        Jacob Henry Edinburgh Rugby
        Kristian Kay Played Glasgow Warriors Academy, then injured I think
        Mikey Heron Stirling Wolves Super Series
        Cole Lamberton Played Edinburgh Rugby Academy, then injured I think
        Adam Scott Formerly Boroughmuir Bears Super Series, now Glasgow Accies
        Guy Kirkpatrick Loughborough University
        Monroe Job Southern Knights Super Series
        Callum Smyth Glasgow Warriors Academy

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  3. So that’s what Gemmell looks like .
    He’s had a lot of jobs within Murrayfield has he not .
    He must be good at them or he would be out on his arrsse .
    Seriously .
    He must know somebody in the higher regions of Murrayfield that sees him alright
    Cos it cannae be performance related

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    • No need for the rude comment.

      Stevie is absolutely vital to Scottish rugby and the fact he’s had so many jobs shows you his worth to the organisation. Above article is just another example of what he does.

      More importantly, Good luck lads in South Africa!

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