KYLE ROWE’s one and only appearance so far on the international pitch at Murrayfield is a happy memory for the 25-year-old winger. Then just 21, he scored Ayr’s opening try as the west coast side completed a league and cup double success over Heriot’s back in April 2019, and at that stage the world appeared to be his oyster.
“He could go the whole way,” said Pete Murchie, his club head coach at the time, who was about to take charge of Ayrshire Bulls for the inaugural Super6 season kicking-off that Autumn. “I’ve not been shy with telling anyone in a high position that he should be playing pro rugby. He’s a serious talent. He was amazing for the Scotland Under-20s last year – he’s a great player and a great guy – works hard off the ball. He’s got everything.”
Unfortunately for Rowe, neither Dave Rennie at Glasgow Warriors or Richard Cockerill at Edinburgh were quite as convinced about his potential. Nothing more promising was forthcoming over the next 24 months than a stint in the Scotland sevens squad (during which time he was available to but not used by Warriors during the 2019 World Cup window) and a solitary match for Edinburgh towards the end of the 2020-21 season, so the winger was forced to look elsewhere for his opportunity to make hismark in the pro game.
“I was just speaking to my agent at the time who said London Irish were looking for a back-three back-up player and I basically said I would take anything at that point, because I didn’t have anything past that summer [of 2021] when I was in training with Edinburgh,” Rowe recalls.
“So, I tried to get that going pretty quickly, just left and headed down to London, and everything came off the back of me leaving Scotland, leaving family and everything, and just taking a shot in the dark because I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen.
“Luckily for me, there was a couple of injuries [at London Irish], and everything came off the back of that.”
Rowe certainly made the most of his time in the Big Smoke, scoring 10 tries for the club in 23 appearances in all competitions during his first season, which included a hat-trick in a famous 27-point comeback draw against Saracens. That led to him being called-up but not used by Scotland during the 2022 Six Nations, before his international bow arrived that summer when he came off the bench as a late replacement for Rory Hutchinson in the second Test against Argentina, only to suffer a torn anterior cruciate ligament in that match which sidelined him for all of last season.
During his spell out of action, London Irish went bust, and with Scottish Rugby having belatedly recognised that he is indeed a player who could add real value at pro (and international level), a Glasgow Warriors deal was offered and accepted last summer.
Rowe has spoken before about how easy it was to slot back in at Glasgow, where he was previously an academy player, but he also recognises that his time outside the Scottish rugby bubble helped his personal development.
“I think with the stuff that I’ve been through, with having rugby taken away from me through no fault of my own really, it’s made me a lot more resilient,” he explains. “So, if I do face setbacks [now] in rugby, I know it’s not really the end of the world because I’m still part of the team, I’m still part of a professional set-up. I think that stands me in good stead going forward into the future and presently.
“If I am not playing well, or I am not getting picked, I know it’s not going to affect me massively – I just need to keep working hard at training and try to get picked again.
“I think it was good to get out of my comfort zone in Scotland where you know everybody and everything. Going down to London, it is such a big place, and I didn’t know anyone so you have to meet everybody at the club, so it was quite a shock to the system at the time but it has definitely made me a better player and a better person.”
Rowe trained with Scotland as he returned to fitness during the build-up to the recent World Cup, but he is yet to add to that solitary cap he earned against Argentina back in the summer of 2022.
With Glasgow and Scotland team-mates/rivals Kyle Steyn and Ollie Smith currently out injured, he knows that his stars could now finally be aligning just in time for the 2024 Six Nations, especially if he can back-up last weekend’s try-scoring exploits against Edinburgh with another big performance in the 1872 Cup second leg this coming Saturday.
“Going up against the two Scotland wingers [in Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe] is a big opportunity for me,” he acknowledges. “They’re really dangerous in attack and good defenders too.
“It is always an ambition to play for you country. With me only having one cap, I don’t want to just stop there. I want to play at Murrayfield and for Scotland however many times I can.
“So, I just want to go out and do my thing every time I get a chance, and if I get picked for the Six Nations that’s great, and if I don’t, I’ll be at Glasgow hopefully playing week-in and week-out and just trying to stay in good form there.”
“With the coaches singing my praises, it’s great, but I try not to think about it too much. I just go out on the field and train as well as I can and just do my thing in games, work hard, try to get on the ball and show everyone what I can do.”