Doncaster Knights snap up second promising Scottish back-rower in a week

Archie Smeaton follows Scotland Under-20s and Glasgow Academy team-mate Rhys Tait in joining English Championship side

Archie Smeaton played for Scotland Under-20s during the 2021 Six Nations. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Archie Smeaton played for Scotland Under-20s during the 2021 Six Nations. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

A SECOND promising Scottish back-row has left the Glasgow Warriors Academy to join English Championship [second tier] side Doncaster Knights within a week with news of Archie Smeaton following Rhys Tait in signing a contract with the South Yorkshire side for next season.

The 22-year-old grew up in Beverley near Hull in England and learned his trade at Hull Ionians. In senior school he played at Hymers College from which he was picked up by Yorkshire Carnegie and the Scottish Exiles programme, for which he qualified through his grandfather.

He went on to study natural sciences at Cambridge University, becoming a Blue for the first time as an 18-year-old in 2019, and also playing in the 2022 Varsity Match. Smeaton played for Scotland Under-20s during the 2021 Six Nations as a high-energy and physical blindside flanker, alongside Tait, who went on to captain the side the following year.


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“Archie is someone that we know slightly as I coached him in short spells when I was head coach at Yorkshire Carnegie. He’s always had a lot of potential from a young age, and we’ve tracked him ever since,” said Knights head coach Steve Boden.

“He’s gone and got his education, and now he’s ready to put his foot down in professional rugby – a brief spell up at Glasgow has given him a taste of it.

“We feel like Archie’s physicality, and his size in the back-row, can be a huge benefit to us. He’s got a long way to go and a lot to learn, as he’s only young, but we’re excited to see how he can grow.

“And a big positive for us is that he’s a Yorkshire-born player coming back to the county, which is huge for us as we want people who want to represent the club and if they’re Yorkshiremen, it really adds to their pride in representing the Doncaster badge.”

Smeaton – who is 6ft 2ins and just under 17 stone – spent last season as part of the Glasgow Warriors Academy, and although he didn’t feature for the senior side, he did impress for the ‘A’ team in the recent Super Series Sprint, as well as when playing for Ayrshire Bulls at that level.

With Rudi Brown – a stand-out for Scotland Under-20s last season – being released by the Edinburgh Rugby Academy last month, questions on what exactly the pathway is for promising back-rowers in Scotland is, and how they can get opportunities in the pro game, need to be addressed as matter of urgency.


Rhys Tait signs for Doncaster Knights

About David Barnes 3956 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.

21 Comments

  1. Hi Joe
    What about Chamberlain , McCallum , Nutton all former U20 players now in the LS squad ?
    The Quins move was smart for both clubs as they give young
    players a chance to play at a high level ( higher than Super6 )
    and LS fought their way back into the Championship
    – hardly a basket case and now we have a team who like Doncaster and Jersey can welcome more young Scottish talent into near Pro level rugby.
    London can provide a profitable future for a Scottish
    Pro side

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    • Each to their own but when you have a club which can’t put out a team without a host of guest players (at times last season half the matchday squad were loan players) then they are in my opinion a basket case.

      Rather than abandons tradition and heritage and become totally reliant on Quins (and a few others) they would do better to drop down the leagues and revert to being a proper rugby club providing rugby for their club members and opportunities for their younger players to progress with the odd loan player.

      Just my opinion of course but I’ll stand by it.

  2. Hi Joe
    I should also have said that Scottish have a vibrant amateur section starting with minis and all the age groups
    to senior rugby where 2 teams are advancing up the
    English leagues .
    The common factor is they all want to play for
    Scotland
    Shouldn’t we support this ambition along with a team in the Championship which is a higher level of rugby than the
    Super 6

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    • They do have a vibrant youth section indeed but paths will inevitably be blocked into the first team by the need to give Quins players games. Whilst LS are totally dependent on Quins their needs will always come first.

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  3. Until the SRU stop bringing in none Scottish coaches for the pro teams the young players won’t get a shout. The coaches use Scotland as a stepping stone for their own pathway.
    They are result driven. They don’t look at the long term development of Scotland.
    It would be interesting for find out how much has been shelled out to English, Aussie and other foreigners.
    Bet you could fund a few clubs from that.

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  4. It’s a pity some of these young lads didn’t go to the Scottish
    side playing in the Championship against Doncaster – London Scottish who could become the third Scottish
    Pro side – Cherry , Turner , Horne did and ended
    up playing for Scotland

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    • Probably well advised to keep clear of London Scottish who are a basket case of a club where the first team is basically a means for Harlequins to give their squad players game time.

      • Hi Joe
        These Quins players could easily be young promising
        players from Scotland

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      • They could LF but only one (Matas Jurevicius) was. The other seventeen (Connor Slevin, Cassius Cleaves, Bryn Bradley, Hayden Hyde, Jamie Benson, Lennox Anyanwu, Will Hobson, Fin Baxter, Jordon Els, Ethan Clarke, Sam Riley, Tom Osborne, Viliami Taulani, Will Trenholm, Nathan Jibulu, Rhys Litterick, Lewis Gjaltema) consist of ten Englishmen, two Welshmen and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina, South Africa and Tonga.

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      • My reply seems to have got lost but the gist of it was that that wasn’t the case. Of eighteen Quins players who turned out for LS only one Matas Jurevicius was Scottish.

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  5. Bums on seats pay the wages of the SRU fat cats. Mr Dobson has quite cleverly realised that most of the Murrayfield crowd don’t care where the team come from as long as we beat the English. He can buy a winning team quicker than it takes to develop one therefore we don’t really need good academies any more. Kenny Murray is in the process of removing any opposition or dissenting voices and has some how taken over who gets the senior academy places at Edinburgh and Glasgow. All the boys who were hoping to get an academy spot have been let go and the places will be given to the current U20’s after the summer jaunt to Kenya. Deservedly so after the outstanding performances on the pitch in the autumn and 6 nation competitions. The development of young talent in this country has become a complete tram smash with Murray at the wheel. .

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  6. These guys have hit the brick wall .let go as surplus to requirements
    Deemed not good enough to push any further up bottleneck ladder in Scotland pro set up by Academy bigwigs
    Mind it will not be the first time Academy has got it wrong and had egg on their faces
    If I remember Fraser Brown was let go .went somewhere else to resurrect his rugby career
    Ended up playing for Scotland .

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    • IIRC Fraser Brown had a serious neck injury and surgery and stopped playing rugby. Then came back for Heriots, initially playing flanker. Played some at hooker again, and injuries meant Toonie called him up for Glasgow. The rest as they say is history
      Nothing to do with bottlenecks or academies. HTH

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  7. This is still the elephant in the room. No clear opportunity for academy or pathway players because of incumbents in the positions they wish to play in.

    We need another team. It has always been the case from a Rugby perspective. But financially the SRU has not done enough to get non-Rugby people into the sport at a club level.

    Its fine doing the whole Flower of Scotland patriot act at large occasions. But the week in, week out season ticket holders numbers need to increase and for it to be seen as a family sport at all levels with a commercially viable operating model before that can happen.

    Otherwise the status quo will continue…

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    • Another team is expensive and the SRU won’t provide the finances to support it. With the SRU owning the pro teams it becomes very difficult to find a private model to fund a third team. Would the team take their share of the European tournament revenues? Would they be able to do their own kit deals? How do you sell sponsorship and allocate the funds across 3 pro teams with 2 very different business models? Where do you locate it, it has to be in a major population centre to draw the crowds biut one with a rugby tradition – that probably suggests Aberdeen but the city is going through huge change and is not as wealthy as it once was. yes I know the borders is a rugby stronghold but it is very localized and with the Rievers, Southern knights both proving how hard it is, to get that following, to support a regional, rather than the local team. What is needed is a business review and a plan from the SRU on what a third team would see revenue wise and the support it would get. Look what is happening in Wales!

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      • Stirling could be a potential 3rd pro side “home”. Excellently situated in the middle with good road networks to most of Scotland for travelling supporters. Also commercially well placed for commercial backers & has a sporting facility within the Uni.

  8. It is a difficult balance, but what can you do when you only have two pro sides? You can point at GW signing an experienced bok but that is a like for like replacement for Wilson. Darge is a fixture in the side, and other youngsters like Munn, Brown and Ferrie all got chances last term.

  9. It’s is so obvious what they are doing , both Tait and Smeaton along with brown were dumped as all other academy boys that are not under 20s for the coming season,and are not in contract

    Glasgow have failed to announce their academy release details adding to the speculation
    Scottish rugby wrongly believed these boys would stay in Scotland and play super 6
    Will be interesting to see what young brown is doing next season
    Rumours around Glasgow is he has not been at 20s camp

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  10. Maybe the SRU should announce their plans for Edinburgh and Glasgow Academies rather than let speculation gather pace which would answer your questions David. The Edinburgh four have been badly mistreated by announcing ‘they have been let go’, suggesting they’re not good enough as the reason hasn’t been given and ‘we are looking for playing opportunities’ for them, no they haven’t. At least Glasgow have kept quiet and given their lads a better chance of finding something else. Poor communication is a theme running through the SRU.

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  11. This is the pathway for promising young players. They play through the super 6 and find a pro club to go to. Having only 2 pro clubs in Scotland, they can’t all be expected to stay.

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