BEN MUNCASTER laughs when Sam Torrance’s name is mentioned. It is clear that it hadn’t previously occurred to the 20-year-old Edinburgh back-rower that his connection with one of Scotland’s greatest ever golfers – who played in eight consecutive Ryder Cups between 1981 and 1995, and who captained the side to glory at The Belfry in 2002 – might be of interest to the outside world.
But the affable Muncaster does not need a second invitation to sing the praises of a man he readily describes as an idol. “We are related, he’s on my dad’s side,” says the former Scotland under-18, 19 and 20 cap, who is originally from North Berwick, attended Rugby School on a scholarship from age 14 (during which time he was a member of the Leicester Tigers Academy) and who joined Edinburgh straight out of school in the summer of or 2020 (on a one-year academy and one-year full-time contract).
“I don’t know what the relationship [with Torrance] is, but we are a lot closer than it is on paper. I’ve always called him ‘Uncle Sam’,” Muncaster adds. “I very much look up to him as an idol. He’s so, so cool.
“I was actually with him when he watched his first ever rugby match at Murrayfield. It was in 2018 against England and we thumped them. It was when Finn Russell did that pass. When we were singing ‘Flower of Scotland’ he had tears running down his face. It was very inspiring. He is an awesome man.
“He’s got a really cool set up in his house. He’s got this mini-pub and the barstools are his Ryder Cup bags. It’s so, so cool.”
While Muncaster plays it down, he is clearly no mug between tee and pin, and he is quick to acknowledge the role his golfing hinterland has played in his rugby development.
“I’m just above single figures. I’m about 11 [handicap]. I wouldn’t really class myself as a good golfer,” he says. “It helps my rugby, to be honest. In golf, if you let a bad shot get [inside] your head you’re going to be terrible throughout the game. You have to completely forget a bad shot, and it’s the same in rugby. If you make a mistake in a game you have to wipe that from your memory and just carry on with the next job.”
Muncaster had an opportunity to play 18-holes in Durban last Sunday, as one of the options available to Edinburgh players on their day-off following the capital side’s victory over the Sharks on Saturday afternoon, but unwisely chose an alternative option instead.
“I absolutely love golf, being a North Berwick boy, but Pierre Schoeman had organised caged shark diving,” he explains. “We had to get up at 5am after the game and then travelled about an hour and a half in this minibus. We then stayed there for two hours before they cancelled it because the sea was too choppy. It wasn’t a very fond experience. There was a good chat on the bus but the shark diving didn’t really pay off!”
On the rugby front, he is going to face stiffer opposition for his place in the Edinburgh team during the run-in to the end of the season, but the 6ft 3ins and 17½ Muncaster has made sure through a series of powerful and self-assured performances that those back-rowers who have missed the last two months of club duty due to either international duty or injury – Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury, Nick Haining, Viliame Mata and Luke Crosbie – now have another serious contender to take on in their fight for a starting jersey.
“I want to keep playing, that’s all I want to do – get that game experience,” says Muncaster when asked for his plans for the remainder of the season. “It’s getting towards the post-season, important games. There will be knock-out games in the Challenge Cup. We are playing Pau in the round of 16 and I want to be playing these games. Hopefully it will be an awesome experience. I know some boys will be coming back from their injuries, but I want to be still in the mix.
“I feel in some ways that I have proved myself. But when these boys come back it will be better in training because we will be competing for these positions. Obviously, the back-row at Edinburgh is notoriously competitive, but I want to keep on playing for Edinburgh because I’ve been loving it.”
First up – if selected – is the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday. “When the Lions played Ospreys there was a lot of ball in play … they just ran round them,” he says, when asked about that 45-15 win for the South African franchise over the Welsh region last Friday night,
“They [Lions] have the most offloads in the URC so we are going to try and slow down their ball. Quite a lot of teams from the northern hemisphere have been doing that and when it has worked it has massively halted the South African teams. We want to front-up physically, obviously, but also manage the game to a good standard.