TWO days after Matt Currie was named in the senior Scotland squad for this summer’s tour to South America, he was turning out for Watsonians in Super6. The 21-year-old centre has played 13 games in total – eight starts and five bench appearances – for Edinburgh since his debut 14 months ago, but has not turned out for the capital outfit since the end of April. However, he is confident that he won’t be undercooked if given a chance to prove himself in next Saturday’s tour opener against Chile in Santiago
“Mike Blair [Currie’s head coach at club level] is really good at making the Super6 an avenue for Edinburgh players,” he explains. “Quite a few of us have gone to play in that league. The clubs are great and it’s a good level, so boys are happy to go and play if asked.
“Chris Dean was one guy who went to play in Super6 earlier this season, got some games under his belt, then started pretty much all of Edinburgh’s games towards the end of the season. So, it’s an opportunity to get some rugby, and you know you are not just being sent away to be forgotten about.
“Making the step up to Scotland is pretty surreal but cool at the same time,” Currie adds. “The nation’s best players are here, so it’s an awesome opportunity for me to learn as a young player and play rugby at a high level. The senior players have all been really helpful, and there’s been some good crack with the boys so far.
“It has come around pretty quickly to be fair. I wouldn’t have said it was on my radar necessarily. But it’s always a goal to play for your country and it’s something I’ve been driving towards for a long time.”
Initially from Dumfries, Currie played two seasons for Scotland under-18s which included a clean-sweep at the 2018 Six Nations Festival, before signing a stage three – full-time – academy contract straight out of Merchiston Castle School in the summer of 2019. However, a bad concussion and a shoulder injury conspired to keep him out of action during his first half season of senior rugby until he returned for Scotland Under-20s’ 2020 Six Nations campaign, helping the team to wins over Italy and Wales.
“We had some decent results but the rest of those games we probably should have done better than we did because we put some of those teams under pressure,” he recalls of a campaign which, it is worth pointing out, was the last time the young Scots were remotely competitive at this level. The age-grade side’s hammering of Wales on the night before Britain went into lockdown was a particularly special moment.
Covid meant limited game-time exposure during the next 13 months, but Currie did enough in training to persuade Richard Cockerill (then head coach at Edinburgh and not a man renowned for giving unproven players a chance) to roll the dice on him, and he made his debut for the capital club against Zebre in April 2021.
While he has spent most of this season playing second-fiddle to Mark Bennett, Currie is happy with how his career is progressing.
“At Edinburgh, Mark is kind of my mentor,” he explains. “We got paired up when I came in as an academy player, and he’s helped me massively with my game, going through match footage I learn a lot. And he’s obviously in great form at the moment, playing some unbelievable rugby, so it is brilliant for me to just be around a guy like that and see how he operates.
“I want to work on my soft skills and my one-on-one ability. They’re massive. You see Mark’ ability to beat defenders, it is pretty unbelievable, so it is just about working on things like that – and to keep working on the things I am good at as well.”
Currie has trained with the Scotland squad in the past but this is his first official involvement, and with Huw Jones dropping out through injury last week he now looks even more like a genuine contender to make the match-day 23 for the Test matches against Argentina – especially as he has the pace and versatility to play on the wing if required.
“Those Argentina games are probably too far away at the moment,” he claims. “We’re just focussing on the [non-cap] Chile match coming up next Saturday. We know that they are a good team, they beat Canada, so I’m just concentrating on that.”
Away from rugby, Currie is studying for a business management degree at Edinburgh University – which he plans to persevere with (albeit at a slower pace) despite the continually increasing demands of his rugby career.
“I’m in third year but have just gone part-time so I have another three years left,” he explains. “It is not always fun having to study after training, but it is great to have something outside rugby I can put some focus into. I find it helps keep me fresh.”