IT has been a whirlwind few months for rising rugby starlet Jamie Campbell – and he is hoping that the next couple of days could be the best yet of his fledgling career.
The 18-year-old second-row is set to win his fourth Scotland Under-20s cap off the bench against France at Netherdale in Gala tonight, while on Saturday he hopes to watch his club side Biggar clinch the National League One title at Bridgehaugh against Stirling Wolves.
If those two things happen – especially the under-20s also manage to back up their recent Six Nations win in Italy with another against the French – then it would be just reward for Campbell, who has worked so hard over the last nine months or so to get to where he is now.
Campbell started his rugby playing journey in that now famous second-row factory over Kelvinside Academy [where Richie Gray, Scott Cummings and Andrew Davidson earned their spurs], as well as at Hillhead/Jordanhill, leading to call-up in his final ear at school into the Scotland Under-18s squad in his final year at school which competed in the 2019 Six Nations Festival in Gloucester and Worcester.
“Rugby was always the sport for me and from an early age I was hooked on it,” Campbell said this week from the Scotland Under-20s camp. “I just really enjoyed it and always wanted to get better and having the chance to represent the under-18s was special because there were a lot of good players in the squad and it was a step-up in level which showed me areas of my game I needed to work on moving forward into senior rugby.
“As I was leaving school, Gary Mercer and David Wilson were both coaching me at Kelvinside and they also coached at Biggar at the time and were keen for me to join them at Hartreemill. I knew that Biggar was a strong community club with a good mixture of youth and experience in and around the 1st XV squad so I took up the invitation and joined – and I haven’t looked back since.”
Mercer is no longer with Biggar, but Wilson, Dougie Fleming and Craig Borthwick are coaching the 1st XV there at the moment with considerable success. Last weekend’s win over nearest rivals Heriot’s Blues was the South Lanarkshire outfit’s 17th win out of 19 National One games this season to date. They now need only two points from their match in Stirling on Saturday to be crowned champions.
“All being well I will get along to watch at the weekend as the close in on the trophy, but we know that it is not done yet,” said Campbell. “Everyone is focused on getting over the line. When we played the Wolves earlier in the season [31-15 to Biggar in November] they gave us one of our biggest tests of the season and we know on their home patch they will be dangerous too.
“The Biggar guys have done well to get results since the Christmas break so hopefully they can get the points needed,” he added. “I have loved my time at Biggar so far, moving from school to senior rugby and a new club could have been a bit daunting, but I felt at home from day one and everyone made me feel so welcome.
“As a result, I felt I learnt a lot there between pre-season and December and that helped me push on for more Scotland age-grade recognition.”
In December, Campbell travelled down to Wales to play in a one-off Scotland under-19 game and he clearly caught the eye because he was then brought straight into the under-20s extended squad.
Cameron Henderson and Kieran Watt have started all the under-20s Six Nations games to date, and are due to start again against France, but Campbell has looked dynamic and assured off the bench against Ireland, England and Italy.
“I have learnt a lot from the coaches Sean Lineen and Shade Munro in the last couple of months as well as the other second-rows in the under-20s group,” said Campbell, who is studying biomedical science at Strathclyde University and is a Scottish Rugby Academy supported player in Glasgow and the West.
“The under-20s experience has been brilliant so far, I think we have a good squad and we showed that in patches against Ireland and England before battling hard to win in Italy two weeks ago 30-29.
“We know France are a good side who will give us a physical test, but we are up for the challenge and we want to build on recent form and show a big home crowd at Netherdale what we are all about,” concluded Campbell.
- Scotland Under-20s against France kicks-off at 8pm tonight [Friday] at Netherdale, while Stirling Wolves versus Biggar in National League One is at Bridgehaugh at 3pm tomorrow.