GREGOR SCOUGALL admits that not being selected in the Scotland squad for the Under-20 Six Nations in the summer hit him hard, but the teenage tight-head prop has turned a negative into a positive over recent months and helped Currie Chieftains go top of the Tennent’s Premiership last weekend.
The 19-year-old was named in The Offside Line’s Premiership Dream Team last weekend along with club-mates Rhys Davies, DJ Innes and Ryan Southern for the part they played in the 61-0 Malleny Park mauling of Musselburgh on Saturday.
And now the Chieftains are looking forward to welcoming third placed Hawick – who knocked Marr off top spot last weekend and were the only side to beat Currie in the first half of the campaign – to Balerno this coming Saturday for what should be a cracking game.
“I have really been enjoying my rugby this season so far, I feel like I am learning and getting better with every game,” Scottish Rugby Academy-supported player Scougall said.
“When the first lockdown began in March 2020, I was just about to leave school and was getting ready for a Scotland under-18 match against England at Hawick which obviously never happened.
“That was frustrating, but that summer I trained hard at home with the support of my Academy coaches via Zoom and, heading into last autumn, I was probably as fit as I had ever been.
“Then last November, in my first real senior training session with Currie, we were doing some 100 metre sprints when lockdown restrictions had eased slightly and I got to about the 70 metre mark and felt a ping and it turned out I had torn my hamstring.
“That was me out for a spell and it left me thinking I’d missed my chance of making the Scotland under-20s squad for the Six Nations.
“As it happened the Six Nations was pushed back to the summer from February and March, but after five months on the sidelines I only had a short window to prove that I deserved selection to go down to Wales.
“I was in the wider squad, but I didn’t make the 32-man party that was picked for the tournament and that hit me pretty hard.”
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Under-20s head coach Sean Lineen decided to take Olly Frostick of Ealing Trailfinders and George Breese of Stirling County to the tournament in Cardiff to compete for the No3 jersey and it left Scougall with plenty to ponder.
“When I got the phone call to say that I hadn’t been picked, it gave me a reality check,” he admits.
“I know I’d given myself a lot to do with the injury and everything, but the reality was that I wasn’t good enough at that time, I was honest with myself and took a step back from the situation so I could refresh and come back better going forward.
“I sat down with my Academy coach Chris Laidlaw and discussed the whole situation and we went through a lot of things that I could start working on to make me a better player with a clearer mindset, and that chat definitely helped.
“By the time pre-season training at Currie started ahead of this current campaign, the injury and missing out on the under-20s were completely out of my mind and I was ready to really build up some momentum.
“I only moved to tighthead prop when I was in my under-16s year, so I am still quite new to the position while this is my first full season of senior rugby, but the guys at Currie have really made me feel welcome and it is a great club to be a part of.
“And on the scrummaging and propping side of things, I have been doing a lot of work with our scrum coach Ali Hamilton while experienced front-rower Graeme Carson is always giving me and the younger boys in that part of the team tips and advice.
“I have also learnt from the players I have scrummaged against and after we played Marr [on September 11th] it was really good of former Scotland loosehead Gordon Reid, who I had directly been up against, to have a chat with me.”
Scougall’s father Lauchie played for Currie back in the day before they became the Chieftains, so it is perhaps no surprise to hear that junior’s rugby journey began at Malleny Park in the mini section when he was in P2 at nearby Dean Park Primary School.
He then went to Balerno High School and carried on his rugby with Currie until S3 age when he went to George Watson’s College.
At that stage Scougall was a No 8, but in his S4 year, as he was progressing into the Edinburgh and Scotland under-16 set-ups, the decision was made to move him to tight-head – and he has never looked back since.
“I wanted to learn the position and be as good as I could at it – and I am still learning now,” Scougall admits.
“With the Watson’s school team I won the Scottish Cup at under-16 level and then in my two under-18 years in the Cup we were beaten by Merchiston Castle in S5 and then we lost in the final to Stewart’s Melville in S6.
“The trip I had with the Scotland under-16s to Wales was a good experience while, as mentioned previously, sadly my national under-18 year was cut short due to the pandemic.
“I did manage to play a handful of games for Watsonians in Tennent’s National League Division One that season though while still at school and that was a big help.
“For now, my main focus is doing well for Currie in the next few matches while the under-20s have quite a busy start to 2022, so I want to put my hand up for that.
“At Currie, after the loss at Hawick in week one, we have been on a good run of form in the last couple of months, but there are certainly no easy games in the Premiership and we have had to work for every win.
“This weekend’s game will certainly be a tough one as Hawick have some good players and have been on a good run themselves, we just have to focus on playing our own game.”
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