AYR scrum-half Harry Warr (HW) popped into Edinburgh Blue Gentleman’s Barber Shop this week to sharpen up his barnet ahead of Saturday’s Tennent’s Premiership play-off Grand Final clash against Heriot’s at Millbrae. Fiona Whiteford [FW] was doing the cutting and shaving and asking the questions.
FW: What are you after?
HW: Can I get a one on the back and sides please, not too high, and then a thinning out mainly at the back where it is pretty heavy, and just the tips off the top.
FW: You want to keep the curls?
HW: Yeah, nice and natural.
FW: That’s not an Ayrshire accent!
HW: Good spot. I grew up in Cheshire then moved up to Scotland to go to Dollar Academy for my final two years at school.
FW: What inspired the move to Dollar?
HW: It was through the Scottish Exiles programme. I had just missed out on Scotland Under-16s and I was looking to play a little bit more schools rugby, because it was all club rugby for me down in England – and my name came up during a random conversation between Rob Brierley, who was head of the Exiles programme at that time, and Don Caskie, who is the director of rugby at Dollar. I went for a viewing and it all moved very quickly after that. Before I knew it I was enrolled on a scholarship. It was great.
FW: And you stayed in Scotland after you left school?
HW: I’m now at Glasgow University and obviously playing a bit of rugby down in Ayr. I’m in my third year studying history and politics, so there’s not a specific career path for me at the end of it. I’m thinking of doing a law conversion.
FW: I take it you’ve got Scottish family?
HW: My mum was born in Strathaven, which is just south-west of Glasgow, and my family on that side are all Scottish. The rugby comes through my dad – he played England Under-20s, England Universities and for Sale for eight or nine years. He was a scrum-half as well. It runs in the DNA of the family that if you play rugby then you play scrum-half, we’re not really big enough to play anywhere else.
FW: Why did you end up going from Dollar to Ayr?
HW: Don Caskie used to run the Scotland Under-19s team with Calum Forrester, who was head coach at Ayr when I was leaving school three years ago. I spoke to Stirling County and Glasgow Hawks as well, but the way everything aligned for me at Ayr … it just seemed like the right decision for me at the time. Especially on the recommendation of Don. It just felt like a great fit.
FW: Is the travelling down from Glasgow a drag?
HW: I’m only really down there for training every Tuesday and Thursday. It’s not too bad, to be honest. I’ve not quite got round to sitting my driving test yet but there are quite a few boys who live in Glasgow so we do the car share thing. I actually live with Cam Reece [Ayr flanker] so I usually catch a lift with him. If you leave at the wrong time then you can get snarled up in the traffic, but I’m an arts and social sciences student so what else am I really going to be doing?!
FW: Are they all Ayr players in your flat?
HW: We’ve got Stuart Collier as well, who has played for the 1st XV a few times but is really a stalwart of the 2nd XV at the moment, and then there’s a dentist who doesn’t play.
FW: Do you have enough time to just enjoy the social side of being a student?
HW: I think I’ve managed to find a balance. I played rugby for the university on Mondays and Wednesdays up until the end of February, and Thursdays at the Union are big nights, so you have to pick and choose when to go for it and when to be sensible, but I still manage to get the odd night out. I’m quite involved in a lot of the events the university put on, like the charity fashion show last month which was quite good fun and raised over £30,000 for Simon Community Scotland.
One of the big things on the calendar at Glasgow Uni is Daft Friday, which is the all-night party at the Union at the end of the first term, but unfortunately I couldn’t go to that this year because we were playing Melrose at The Greenyards the next day.
FW: And I hear you’ve got a brother who plays some rugby as well?
HW: I knew you were going to ask about that! My little brother, Gus, plays down at Sales Sharks; and my little sister, Isla, competes for Scotland at gymnastics. We’re quite a sporty family, I suppose.
FW: Really, that’s brilliant. But I’m not going to let you wriggle out of telling me about Gus playing for England Under-20s!
HW: Fair enough! Gus was at Dollar as well, after my time, and he played Scotland Under-18s while he was there. But he remained part of the Sale Sharks Academy which meant he played the first term for the school and spent the second term travelling to play in the English Under-18s academy league which runs from January through to March. Then, when he left school, he was offered a full-time senior academy contract at Sale, and with Faf de Klerk being away quite a lot this season he has been able to pick up a good bit of game time.
He was picked in the England Under-20s squad for the last Six Nations and he’s had plenty of stick about being a turncoat. Basically, the contract he signed meant that if the RFU pick you up then you have to play for England. It was a difficult decision – there was a lot of noise in the family group text when it came out that this was the way he was headed – but, in fairness, our dad is English, he lived in England until he was 16 and he lives in England now.
When we were younger, he was a die-hard England fan, crying when they got knocked out the World Cup and stuff like that. But as he grew up and learned a bit more about my mum’s background and heritage, he became slightly more inclined to Scotland.
As luck would have it, he actually made his England Under-20s debut against Scotland of all teams last month. England won pretty comfortably and he’s saying it was down to him because when he came on they were only 19-7 up and they ended up winning 45-7.
FW: Okay, we’ll let him off the hook then. So, how are you going to go against Heriot’s on Saturday?
HW: It’s a massive game. They’ve been there or thereabouts all season, but from about Christmas onwards they really seem to have turned it on. We got one over them at Goldenacre but then they beat us at Millbrae, so it is one of those ones which people will say can go either way. But we’re feeling good and are pretty confident that it will come down on our side, especially with a big crowd at Millbrae behind us.
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