AWAY from the rugby field, Cole Forbes is training to be an accountant, and he appears to have got his calculations spot on when he decided back in January to up sticks and head north from his native New Zealand to link up with Glasgow Warriors for a trial which has since turned into a ‘multi-year’ contract with the Scotstoun outfit.
The 21-year-old full-back/wing – who played three times for the Junior All Blacks during the 2019 U20s World Championship (although he missed their pool match against Scotland) and three seasons for Bay of Plenty in New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup – is now four matches into his Warriors career, and has looked comfortable enough in both attack and defence at that level to be touted as a contender for involvement in Scotland’s three match schedule against England A, Romania and Georgia this summer.
It hasn’t been flawless. There have been a few soft penalties, including a yellow-card and penalty-try conceded for tackling Cian Kelleher in the air during his debut against Leinster, and he says himself that the more structured style of play in Scotland means he needs to work on his kicking game and fielding of the high ball.
But the good outweighs the bad, and with Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe (both on Lions duty) and Darcy Graham (recovering from shoulder surgery) all unavailable for Scotland this summer, Mike Blair – the national team’s stand-in head coach – could be tempted to test this most recent ‘kilted-kiwi’ at the next level.
“My Granddad was born up in Aberdeen and left for New Zealand when he was four years old,” explains Forbes. “It was only a couple of months ago that I found out that I am able to play for Scotland and decided to go down that route.
“I played Mitre 10 Cup with Hugh Blake, who used to play for Glasgow Warriors, and he got wind of the fact I was Scottish qualified. He got me in contact with an agent up here and they fixed up a trial. I was only meant to come for three months and then return home, but Danny was impressed enough by me to keep me on, so I decided to stay for a few years, which is exciting.
“Back home, there is so much talent that I made the decision back in January that I was getting pushed to the back – after a few injuries put me down the line – so I was like: ‘I might as well come over to Scotland when I am only 21 and build that aim of playing for Scotland’.”
Before moving north, Forbes was juggling his rugby commitments with working at KPMG on a placement from Waikato University, and he is still studying distantly on a part-time basis for a Bachelor of Business degree (majoring in accounting).
“I was working 40 hours a week, up in the morning at 5am to go to the gym, then training at night, so it is quite nice coming over here being able to be a full-time rugby player,” he says. “It makes life easier and, definitely, that was the main reason to come here for that three-month trial.
“I’m still watching lectures on video and doing the work on my days off,” he adds. “It means I will have something to fall back on after footy.”
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Given the depth of the rugby talent pool he came through, Forbes could hardly have imagined when he first arrived in Scotland that he would be linked to an international call up at this early juncture, but if the opportunity does arise this summer then he says he will be ready. “If it happens, I will be stoked, and it will be a huge surprise,” he says. “But at the moment I am just worried about playing well for Glasgow in these last two games.”
Back-to-back wins over Edinburgh in the team’s most recent outings has lifted Warriors into contention to qualify for the play-off final of the Rainbow Cup. They take on Dragons away this Saturday evening, then Leinster at home six days later, and really need to win both matches to have a chance of finishing top of the table. Even then, they are looking for surprise pace-setters Benetton to slip-up.
“I came over here on a three-month trial thinking I was going to be leaving at the end of May,” concludes Forbes. “I was just trying to make a difference in training, catch the coaches’ eye to get a chance, and Danny has been really helpful by giving some really good game time.
“I am stoked with how it is going and want to build from there. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team win these last few games.”