Schools/Youth round-up: GHA call off a cause for concern

Boroughmuir and Stirling County both miss out on a final hit-out ahead of Sunday's under-18 Youth Cup Final

West of Scotland versus Ayr/Wellington was the only game to go ahead in the inspire sport Boys U18 National One Conference to go ahead last weekend. Image: Susan Hay
West of Scotland versus Ayr/Wellington was the only game to go ahead in the inspire sport Boys U18 National One Conference to go ahead last weekend. Image: Susan Hay

BOROUGHMUIR’S hopes of being put through a tough test ahead of the defence of their u18 Youth Cup title on Sunday at Scottish Gas Murrayfield were frustrated after their final round Conference match with GHA was called off because of what is officially recorded as ‘insufficient players home’.  

Not only did this personnel problem deny Boroughmuir a good preparatory work-out but GHA’s inability to field a team must raise more general concerns both at the Braidholm club and in the inner sanctum of Murrayfield.  “Incredibly frustrating given the final is next Sunday” was the reaction of Boroughmuir’s head coach, Richie Lockhart. 

“It would have been great to get a run out. No issue with the GHA coaches who are great guys, but it does beg the question why a club can win the u16 cup one year then not field a team at u18 the next season,” he added.


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It is surely a matter that Murrayfield must internalise but in the absence of any official reaction Lockhart poses the concomitant question: “Is the conference structure right?”  That, however is a  debate for another, but not too distant,  day.

Also missing the opportunity of a competitive dry/wet run was Boroughmuir’s opponent’s in Sunday’s Cup Final on the international pitch, Stirling County, whose game against Mackie at Stonehaven was cancelled because of a waterlogged pitch.

The only match in the final round of the tier one club conference that did go ahead was the clash between West of Scotland and the Shield U18 finalists, Ayr/Wellington, at Burnbrae. In the event, West, edged out of the Cup in the semi-final by Stirling County, came from behind to win 27-14.

West’s coach, Gavin McGreish, admitted: “We were very passive in the first half, and were stifled in attack by a strong Ayr defence, which left us going in at half time 5-14 down. In the second half we came out fighting with much better aggression and hunger for for ball”.

The Burnbrae side were helped hugely by the performance of their half-backs, as McGreish acknowledged, saying: “Euan Collin at nine and Christian Ward at ten, had fantastic second halves, the pairing working well to distribute the ball accurately and with pace to the wide channels, creating gaps in Ayr’s well drilled defence. Overall, that second half performance was a great way to finish off the first half of the season”.

West’s tries were scored by flanker Calum Cairns, full-back Rory Caldwell, hooker Alistair Padmanabhan, second-row Connal Haig and centre Aaron Bell.

Despite losing the second half, Ayr can take much out of this match from their performance before the interval. Head coach, Colin Duck, reasoned the turnaround in fortunes after half-time was due to several factors. “We felt comfortable and in control but a combination of West coming out stronger in the second half and us making a lot of changes at half-time to give all the boys game time before our Shield Final next week meant the picture changed in the second half,” he reasoned.

“While we feel we let this game go, we suffered no injuries and will go into the final next week at full strength” added, Duck, whose side’s tries were scored by Sandy Hay and Dan McKinley both converted by Cole Graham.

In the Shield u18 Final, Ayr will face Hawick Youth, who gave themselves a confidence boost last weekend with a 33-17 victory over Tynedale at the Volunteer Park. “It certainly was a good win as Tynedale are a much improved unit compared to last season,” observed Paul McDonald, the Hawick u18 team manager.  “Importantly we got through the match without any injuries”.

In all, Hawick scored five tries, one each from Luke Scott, Mikey Swailes, Boyd Hughes, Riley Muir and Filip Kubicki, four of these converted by Greig Cartner.”

Elsewhere in the Borders Semi Junior League, Gala Wanderers, were 26-0 winners over Jed Thistle at Netherdale, with tries scored by Jamie Bell (2), Fraser Hume and Rowan Chalmers, two of these converted by Rory Wilson.

“It was a  good all round performance in poor conditions” was coach Bruce Chalmers’ assessment.  He continued “After a tough few weeks it was great to get a morale-boosting win in a fairly dominant fashion. Despite the weather we succeeded in playing some nice rugby and were solid defensively in keeping a feisty Jed Thistle team at bay” .

 

The top match in the BSJL between Peebles Colts and Kelso Quins was postponed because of weather related issues while at Alnwick the game between the Northumbria club and Melrose Wasps was abandoned minutes into the second half because of deteriorating conditions and concerns about player welfare.

Wasps’ coach, Nick Alston, explained: “I conceded the match shortly after half-time. The pitch was totally unplayable from the outset and we probably shouldn’t have played. Come half-time, my boys were dangerously cold and wet and I was seriously worried there was a heightened chance of injury and/or hypothermia. The boys were not in a good way. So I abandoned the match – which the referee agreed was the right call.”

Meanwhile, in the second tier National Club Conference, Dumfries Saints continued their unbeaten run with a convincing  47-14 win over Biggar at Hartree Mill to stay top of the u18 table ahead of Currie Chieftains, who  made sure their journey up the A9 to Inverness was worthwhile after defeating Highland 34-19.

In schools rugby, Merchiston Castle finished their Conference season on a high with a 26-12 win over Strathallan at Colinton to draw level at the top of the league table with George Watson’s College, much to the satisfaction of head coach, Roddy Deans.

“We are delighted to finish the Conference with this manner of performance and very proud of the response after the semi-final loss,” he said. “We challenged the boys to deliver and they certainly did that.  The conditions made for a very physical contest.

“I felt we took our chances well and our driving maul proved a strong weapon in the rain. Our game changers were Hamish Macarthur and Isaac Foley who both controlled the game tactically and used their rugby intelligence to get us into the right areas”.

Macarthur finished the game with an eleven points tally from a try and three conversions. The other Merchiston tries came from Ross Smart and Alistair Bamberry.

The other top tier Schools Conference game played last weekend resulted in a 32-31 win for Fettes College over Edinburgh Academy.  “This was a very competitive game between two closely matched teams,” reflected the Fettes coach, Duncan Harrison.

“Academy kicked well and put us under a lot of pressure,” he added. “We were perhaps a bit too ambitious in trying to attack from wrong areas of the field but kept in the game and got some really good long range tries. This is a really good group of boys playing the game the way it should be played. I was delighted they got some success in the final game of what has been a strong season and a strong Conference.”

For Fettes, Rory Brogan finished with a hat-trick of tries and there was one each from Jayden Agyei, Dara Omotowa and Hugh Ross with one conversion by Jack Adams, while for Edinburgh Academy there were tries from Oliver Joyner, Jamie Riach, Sammy Ghiradello, Matthew Marshall and Oliver Finlayson-Russell, three of these converted by Munro Lawrie.

“That would have been a great game to watch as a neutral,” stated Chris Martin, the Edinburgh Academy coach. “I was delighted with how we played, particularly against a side who had the emotion of their final game motivating them.”

He added: “It was disappointing to lose after being 19-5 up, but Fettes did score a couple of crackers via an electric winger, so fair play to them. Our boys haven’t been up by more than a score in the first half yet, so this is more good experience for them as we move into the next phase of our season, building towards our away fixture against Millfield in March.

“We’re in a good place, and I hope to see a few of our players involved in Junior 1872 Cup and National Age Grade Rugby after Christmas. Overall, it’s been a good first half of our season, but we  probably should have won two more games at 1st XV level,” suggested Martin.


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About Alan Lorimer 339 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

51 Comments

  1. @coachpotato

    Oh so wrong I’m afraid. Totally wrong assumption and is probably one of few times you’ll hear me actually affirm what the SRU are doing . Of that organisation, believe me I am in no way associated or a fan boy but that again is another topic.

    The topic in this thread that I have commented upon is about the National Club Conference and the eligibility of players within the conference to create a structured and competitive environment from which our youth players can develop. The SRU cannot bridge the divide that is club and school at youth and thus, have created a conference system for BOTH and a set of rules to ensure inclusiveness that I applaud, ensuring as many young players get the opportunity to experience and ideally, help broaden the appeal and grow our game.

    It’s quite simple, there’s a school conference and a club conference, as a player, you choose to play in one or the other for half a season and do not occupy a space in both ensuring a broader reach of our game to tap into a wider potential talent pool.

    I am merely pointing out facts that on a whole, National 1 and National 2 clubs have been able to field eligible players week in and week out through the hard work employed in establishing a community club and developing breadth and depth of talent, independent to providing another rugby outlet for those that already receive it through fee paying schools. The SRU are simply providing 2 separate conference systems that allow a fairer contest based on the available training time/resources that a community club has available to them as opposed to the higher available time that fee paying schools have. In essence, creating a more level playing field from which youth rugby can establish more comparative foundations as a stepping stone into senior rugby.

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  2. Wow, the passion for our youth game in this thread is fantastic.

    @Ranji, I understand your allegiance to your club which is admirable but please don’t let that obfuscate the issue at hand.

    The SRU created two separate conferences to cater for the divide we have in youth rugby, namely schools and clubs providing a structured and competitive conference environment for youth players to participate within. Every player has a choice in which conference to participate allowing places in the 22 player squad available for as many as possible. The debate on the schools versus clubs is an altogether separate topic, there is a schools conference and there is a club conference and rules to allow the access and inclusiveness for as many players as possible.

    Your statement that “Clubs struggle to field teams, fixtures are often unfulfilled or downgraded to non-competitive development fixtures” I fail to recognise as the facts simply do not corroborate your claim.

    The National 1 Club conference comprised of 6 teams, incl. GHA. Every other team was able to fulfil fixtures with eligible players having developed breadth and depth of squad without the reliance on schools; whose players have a competitive conference open to them so they are in no way victims of this conference structure and it’s rules, they have a choice.

    The National 2 Club Conference also started with 6 clubs, Perthshire appear to have struggled to field eligible players and withdrew from the conference leaving very few games, unplayed but community clubs such as Currie, Dumfries and Highland all fulfilling fixtures with eligible players.

    So the idea that school players are needed as “…clubs struggle to field teams…” is simply not substantiated by what we have witnessed in the first half of this season.

    I appreciate and empathise that it appears the squad breadth and depth for GHA youth needs to be recalibrated and that will not happen overnight. However, for the good of our sport at a national level, the more players we have in the game, with the outlet to play competitive rugby means that we can hopefully expand the talent pool in both terms of quantity and quality and we benefit from it in the senior sections.

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    • So @Brackets almost certainly works for SRU who under Dodson hold the “never apologise, never explain (never consult meaningfully) approach. Which is dull.
      Without doubt failing to allow dual registration – club & school (still enforce managed playing time) would help fix this gap across the season and is defacto what Marr College do already. School pre Xmas, Club post. Just let everyone do it all year round,
      Separately it is also beholden on clubs not to fall in to trap of “recruiting” players from smaller clubs to the extent that they have no side at all. The lure of Murrayfield is good but….not when manipulated by exiting Cup for Shield by design or gaming the match offical appointments (an invested dad should not ref a knock out match), not when age d.o.b are stacked by benefit of fee paying school etc etc.
      Play with your mates. Play fair. Win some, lose some and enjoy.
      Good luck to all the club sides tomorrow.

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    • “Every player has a choice in which conference to participate”

      Is this true?

      I’m led to believe that when a parent signs a contract for their child to enrol with an independent school, they agree that their child “will” take part in the school sports team if selected to do so.

      Not sure if that is true, but I certainly have personal experience this season of kids (and their parents), telling the Club coach that whilst they’d love to play, the school coach has told them they must play for the school.

      • I cannot comment on all schools, but for the one I am familiar with – it’s not true.
        They are not required to turn out for the school and can play club ruby if they so wish.
        My son did exactly that.

  3. An interesting and pretty enlightening range of comments. Ultimately this is the result of badly thought out SRU policy.

    For clarity, the rule under discussion is not related to player welfare. The World Rugby memorandum referenced by Pegj below and that all other Unions abide by states that a player should play no more than 90 mins of rugby in a day. There is no evidence to suggest that playing games of youth rugby on two consecutive days is a player welfare issue, indeed a contrary line of argument is that playing organised sport is generally good for children’s health. We’re talking about youth rugby here, not professional rugby. As parents we all of course can make our own judgement on the amount of sport we want our children to play and restrict that as we feel necessary.

    The rule is in fact in place with the specific intention and belief that by restricting clubs’ ability to play players who played school rugby on the Saturday from also playing for their club on a Sunday that it provides an opportunity for another player. However, the converse is often true. Clubs struggle to field teams, fixtures are often unfulfilled or downgraded to non-competitive development fixtures and ultimately it is the state school children who are being penalised most, both at clubs like GHA and those clubs who don’t get as many competitive fixtures as a consequence. We all lose out. Rugbymum’s initial comment on this being case and point.

    During my time at GHA we argued this point consistently as that was what is in the best interests of our players who are suffering as a consequence and consequently in the best interests of the game of rugby in Scotland. I believe wholeheartedly that although I don’t doubt their good intentions, Scottish Rugby have got this wrong and with the exception of perhaps some very specific cases, the evidence certainly supports this.

    We will also be aware of the plight of the Scotland U20s at the moment and the lack of competitive fixtures in our youth competition structure bears some responsibility for this. In the interest of developing players to their full potential I would also argue that the experience of playing in different environments and under different coaches is beneficial in this respect and again there is evidence to support this and this is therefore and unintended consequence of this restriction.

    There is no one size fits all youth structure that suits every club in every community and no one is better placed to decide what works best for them than the clubs themselves.

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    • You might not be discussing player welfare, but I am.
      I doubt that your boys are having to travel over 8 hours in a day to play some of their fixtures like our boys have if you think playing two games in a weekend is acceptable!

      As for it being youth rugby, not professional, have a word with the rugby academy coaches regarding management of players load and the implications that playing too much rugby has on injury rates and tell me then that it’s not to do with player welfare. Some of the hits I’ve seen being taken in my son’s team mean they struggle to play the following week, never mind the following day.

      • Rugbymum I’m with you on the conference structure. Not a model I support for the reasons that you mention as well it stifling the progress of teams and players at clubs who are capable of playing at a higher level but can’t. Ultimately it’s is utterly ridiculous that Dumfries are traveling to Highland for league fixtures.

        As for player welfare, I stand by what I have said. I’m not avoiding the subject merely clarifying that this rule around player eligibility is not there for player welfare reasons. Rugby is a contact sport, that’s something we can’t deny and it comes with risk attached. It is important that the contact area in particular is coached and refereed in the interests of player safety and Scottish Rugby’s coach education programme is very good on this. The circumstances you describe in your post are where individual and parental responsibility comes in to play in my view. These injuries happened on the playing of a single game not two games and where a player is injured I would agree with you that they should not play another game until they are over that injury. This has been the approach for as long I have been involved in rugby. Assuming a player is not carrying an injury then outwith the World Rugby memorandum on this which restricts game time to 90 mins a day, I believe that the responsibility for deciding whether or not a child should play rugby lies with the parent first and foremost. You are therefore free to make your own judgement with your own child and others are free to make theirs. Every other country in the world adopts this approach and it would seem to me to be the correct one.

  4. RGB

    Clearly you are the Julian Assange of the youth rugby world with your insights to the inner workings of GHA. I hope you have reserved a room at the Ecuadorean embassy.

    Also those coaches must be delighted you have used what they have told you, to come on and bash them on a public rugby forum.

    GHA are a club adjusting to the new rules and have always tried to develop local talent in the area and will continue to do so.

    Also I know 3 players personally who were going to join the club you are affiliated with, but didn’t due to fear of having to listen to your online comments in person.

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  5. As a U15 coach at GHA I’m deeply saddened by the ill informed posts on this thread. We were told by the SRU that if we couldn’t field a team due to players competing on Saturday in schools conference we should move to a development game. Our boys have played together since P1 and this year it’s been disbanded based on the school they ended up going to in senior school. We are trying to rebuild now that we have no school players from U15 upwards. A massive hit on club income but more importantly children who don’t understand why they aren’t allowed to play together anymore. For many of them rugby training during Covid was what got them thru We are rebuilding as many others are. The issue is we are not creating new players with these rule changes just moving the same boys between clubs.

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    • Murray, the predicament for GHA is clear and not an easy situation and I can understand your frustrations. However, surely a team playing for a development game conference point should not include ineligible players. Otherwise, there is no difference in playing with an eligible team and losing or playing with an ineligible team and calling it a development game. That’s not right or fair.

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  6. I didn’t realise that GHA lives rent free in so many minds of the GHA experts that aren’t associated to the club. We play the boys who have been with us for years. The ones we’ve coached and developed since primary one! As Rangi has mentioned, when they start their rugby journey it’s not always obvious they will be attending a private school when they go to secondary. I think a bit more credit should be given to the coaching at GHA. It’s not really a case of us cherry picking private school players, more the fact we’ve coached them pretty well and the fact the schools have probably benefited from that. Just remember we’re all volunteers and the laughable bit is the toxicity and tone is not very rugby valuesy, something most of you probably spout on a regular basis. The rules have changed and we’re adapting. It will be a slow process, part of the SRU 10 year player participation strategy. We’re not going to have it all planned out in 6 months. There is a simpler solution to this and it’s having the private schools revert to playing on a Wednesday as many of them have done in the west this season. But that won’t be a popular solution as it would be an instant fix that doesn’t fit the narrative. Enjoy the festive break folks and remember – be nice!

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    • “I didn’t realise that GHA lives rent free in so many minds of the GHA experts that aren’t associated to the club”

      followed by

      “the laughable bit is the toxicity and tone is not very rugby valuesy, something most of you probably spout on a regular basis”

      ending with
      “Enjoy the festive break folks and remember – be nice!”

      You make some good points but the hypocrisy does you no credit.

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    • Show a tiny bit of contrition for the disruption to so so many young players game time and development caused. All the opposition for first non existent school sides now non participating club sides been left scratching their heads whilst a select few lads picking up silverware first for club then for school. Slow hand clap. The rules were changed years ago hence first the end of Hawks midi section end then the end of GHK midi section above u15 and rise of West as state school kids went there. Problem was indeed created by a one size fits none SRU (safety led but non consulted) mandate but GHA alone gamed the system. The best solution would be dual registration so a player from a school “b” team could play club “a” team at weekend when not selected or if no school fixture in place (ie during holidays and half terms). Ps GHA have this season and last raided many great grass root player dev clubs (Whitecraigs, Bishopton, Dalziel for example) for players at U16, U17, to replace the ones lost back to school system. Being “nice” is a two way street. Merry Christmas.

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      • Define “raided”. We make it very clear that we don’t approach individual players to come and join GHA. This perception that we do is totally unfounded. The fact players choose to come to GHA is the reality. Again however it doesn’t suit the narrative that is perpetuated throughout youth rugby. The win at all costs is also a little disingenuous. I challenge any of you to come to our training sessions and witness this approach. It’s a total fallacy. There is so much misinformation spread it’s unbelievable.

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    • Show a tiny bit of contrition for the disruption to so so many young players game time and development caused. All the opposition for first non existent school sides now non participating club sides been left scratching their heads whilst a select few lads picking up silverware first for club then for school. Slow hand clap. The rules were changed years ago hence first the end of Hawks midi section end then the end of GHK midi section above u15 and rise of West as state school kids went there. Problem was indeed created by a one size fits none SRU (safety led but non consulted) mandate but GHA alone gamed the system. The best solution would be dual registration so a player from a school “b” team could play club “a” team at weekend when not selected or if no school fixture in place (ie during holidays and half terms). Ps GHA have this season and last raided many great grass root player dev clubs (Whitecraigs, Bishopton, Dalziel for example) for players at U16, U17, to replace the ones lost back to school system. Being “nice” is a two way street. Merry Christmas.

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    • Maybe show a tiny bit of contrition for the disruption to so so many young players game time and development caused. All those opposition players, for first non existent school sides, now non participating club sides who been left scratching their heads whilst a select few lads picked up silverware first for club then for school. Slow hand clap. The rules were changed years ago hence first the end of Hawks midi section end then the end of GHK midi section above u15 and regeneration of West as state school kids went there. Problem was indeed created by a one size fits none SRU (safety led but non consulted) mandate but GHA alone gamed that system. The best solution would be dual registration so a player from a school “b” team could play club “a” team at weekend when not selected or if no school fixture in place (ie during holidays and half terms). Ps GHA have this season and last raided many great grass root player dev clubs (Whitecraigs, Bishopton, Dalziel for example) for players at U16, U17, to replace the ones lost back to school system. Being “nice” is a two way street and growing the game is everyone’s responsibility. Merry Christmas.

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    • Iain, it would be nice if GHA were honest and deducted the two points from their u15s total which they have wrongly claimed.

      Secondly, changing school games to a Wednesday? Really? Why is it so difficult to accept the fact that if a player’s parents chooses to send them to a school which plays quality rugby fixtures that they have to stop playing at a club. That is what happens all over the country so why is it so difficult for GHA to get their heads round it? The vast majority of players play one game a week, why should there be exceptions made or rules changed so that a select few can play two?
      Lastly, if the enforcement of the rules down to u15 level means that GHA are struggling to fulfill fixtures then maybe they are not at National One level at the moment.
      In the words of Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want.

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    • Is it any wonder people are sceptical of GHA? Many people have had cause for concern on how they ‘manage’ their players around the rules. At regionals my son was proudly informed by a GHA player that he was allowed to play for the GHA u18s on a Saturday and the GHA u16s on a Sunday because his dad was a coach! There is only one way around that and that’s falsifying scrums. Also, in our game against them last season a player was dropped off by his mother before the match and she loudly shouted to the GHA coach, ‘Go easy on him in the warm up, he played for the school this morning!’ 😂

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      • This is utter nonsense. I have coached last season’s U16 (now U18) and this season’s U16. There is no player doing this. I can also state that rules of of time playing were followed.

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      • GHH well there was no players playing for the under U16 last year who played both age groups….and any that might have been in that situation did not have parents who were coaching.
        What you have written is malicious nonsense and has no evidence to backup what you’ve said. You obviously have something against GHA and are happy to slag off the club. The young lads playing for GHA are enjoying playing rugby and that is the most important thing regardless of what internet trolls have to say about their club.
        I hope you have a happy Christmas and a good New Year.

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      • The boy was called out by regional boys because he had played in the 18s and 16s games against one of the clubs, the boys from that club had cottoned on and asked him how he was able to do that. The above was his reply. Nothing malicious here just calling out what has happened. And it was two seasons ago, not last. Enjoy your festive season if you are celebrating.

  7. Firstly, good luck to both GHA and Gala Red U16 who are facing each other on Sunday at Murrayfield in the shield final. It’s a testament to the efforts of the players and coaches that they have reached this final.
    The changes the SRU have made earlier this year to the rules and eligibility of players to play for clubs has affected many teams – Perthshire GHK and GHA are good examples of clubs massively affected. So for one of these teams to appear in a final merely months after a rule change of this gravity is a tremendous achievement.
    To deny boys who have played at a club for all their primary school the right to continue to play in secondary due to the school they attend is wrong. Schools hold the cards in this relationship.
    Unfortunately, we see cancelled games across the youth rugby fixtures and results section and the problem seems to not be restricted to GHA. However GHA as a ‘big’ club seem to attract the attention as being the problem rather than addressing the issue behind it.
    As per most of Glasgow and large cities across Scotland, GHA has a number of high schools in its proximity. However the uptake is worrying low.
    My hope going forward is for SRU to engage with state schools in a more successful manner to address the poor uptake in club rugby.
    The volunteer (parent with an interest) should not be relied upon to generate interest in one of Scotland’s major sports.

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    • Coach P. The club that my boys play at has a community trust which employs coaches to go into schools on behalf of the club to deliver rugby sessions, set up schools of rugby and encourage those players to come and play at the club. This is very successful in building our youth section to healthy levels and we are not in one of the biggest cities in Scotland. Surely GHA can set something like this up so that volunteers are not relied upon to develop their community youth game? That is the role of clubs with youth sections, build your playing numbers through relationships with schools which do not have rugby set up internally and don’t play competitively. Relying on two private schools to play your Youth Conference games for you is not growing the game it’s just a ‘win at all costs’ mentality which shuts out players who would like to play for GHA but who know that they won’t get game time any weekend that the schools aren’t playing. I personally know of three players in one age group who were in a position to join GHA and chose to go elsewhere because they knew they’d not be picked for games if school boys were available. It will take time and effort but gHAs numbers will start to grow as their reliance on school players lessens.

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      • Since you are such an expert on youth rugby and clearly how GHA operate their youth system. Why don’t you go down and show GHA what to do and restructure their whole club? Easy work for such an expert like yourself.

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      • Mr Impartial
        I have heard from GHa coaches directly that they are in free fall with how to work around the rules being enforced. My points are merely stating how other clubs manage without using school players. It can be done, it just takes time, effort and adjustment. That’s all.

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  8. In amongst all the debate back and forth about GHA/Marr, etc and their relative merits, it might be worth mentioning – as part of the “Schools/Youth round up” – the following:

    Not only did Dumfries Saints U18 continue their winning ways at the weekend, they actually completed the whole conference season unbeaten.

    Perhaps more importantly the Dumfries Saints youth section also completed their National 2 conference campaign finishing top of the Whole Club table and are currently awaiting confirmation of promotion to National 1.

    All involved in the youth section at Dumfries – but, most importantly – the players who delivered this season and the players who have delivered in recent seasons building the club’s youth section deserve congratulations and a huge amount of respect and credit for their efforts at training and on game days.

    Well done boys!

    For what it’s worth, I agree that 2 full games of rugby in one weekend is too much for the vast majority of youth players and is only likely to lead to increased injury rates. Might be OK for some but the rules have to be right to protect the welfare of all players.

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  9. GHA have one of the largest mini rugby sections in Scotland. Almost all of the players are from the local state primary schools. Two of my sons play in P1 and P5 at the club and over 90% of the boys and girls are attending local state primaries. The problem GHA have which is not unique but nonetheless specific to only a few clubs is that in the community that they serve, a significant proportion of these local state primary children then attend private school at secondary level. Many of the coaches and volunteers that club depends on are also of those children who later go to Hutchesons for example when they reach secondary school. All of these children start their rugby journey at GHA, many having played for the club for 7 years before ever playing school rugby. Many of these children and their families have historical connections to the club – their brother, cousins, dad, uncles all having played there. GHA is their club, it’s where they are first introduced to the game, it’s where they build friendships, it’s where they spend a significant part of their youth. They are the future of the club. The fact is that they are then denied the opportunity to play for their club due to SRU regulations at midis level, for no logical reason other than a flawed notion that it is somehow good for the game to break up friendship groups and deny boys the right to play rugby for their club. Not to mention the thousands in lost membership income for the club due to losing these players. Why is it a bad thing that boys get more opportunities to play rugby in different environments? GHA have actually demonstrated that in our community at least there is a lot of merit in this. The SRU on the other hand are aggressively pursuing a policy of segregation of school and club rugby but for what benefit? Do the players themselves not have rights here? Why are the SRU putting up barriers to boys playing rugby with the net result being clubs struggling to field teams and less competitive games?

    GHA is an open and welcoming rugby club run by an army of dedicated volunteers trying their hardest to invest in and grow the game of rugby in their local community. Unfortunately we are simultaneously being targeted by ignorant SRU policy which asset strips the club of players and therefore funding at an unprecedented level and which, as demonstrated, threatens our ability to exist at this level. For the greater good of the game?

    I would like to state that the above are my personal views and not necessarily the views of the club as I no longer serve on it’s Board. Frankly I am pleased to have been able to take a break from dealing with some of the red tape from Murrayfield which is a constant source of stress and frustration for people in the club game simply trying to do their best to get boys and girls playing the game. Is it any wonder we all struggle for volunteers?

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    • It is diffcult yes. But the rules are in place which is why Glasgow Accies and GHK for example do NOT have a midi section and why Marr for example enter the schools competition pre xmas and then (for not obvious reason) absolutely crush the west club cup regional contest post, for which they are vastly over qualified. GHA are getting it wrong in pursuit of win at all costs. They have often crippled the schools regional league as St Al and Hutchie were not fielding sides regularly leaving 40+ lads with no rugby meanwhile their U16 super squad was stacked with many not even in squad. The schools pushed back and now they struggle. As a coach I would agree more flexibility around open dual registration might be the solution and also as a coach I support that two games in a weekend at U16 onwards is too much. As it stands though GHA have been culpable of seeing vast numbers of kids not playing at all in school and club fixtures.

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      • While we are discussing youth rugby. Lets not ever stop discussing the near pointless nature of teh Schools Cup where a select number of Edinburgh private schools have kids all on teh September (English) entry system and so we see teams where half the lads are 18 and have had elite coaching for a decade and S&C vs teams from Glasgow or Caledonia who are a mix of 16 and 17 year olds. Utterly pointless. The full time braying scenes of a culturally monolithic set of privileged and entitled lads, lads, lads… was beyond cringe.

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    • Maybe the solution is to do what many schools and clubs do which is join together and play in ONE conference. Youth players do not have the entitlement to play in two conferences so why should school players? Look at Marr College/Marr Rugby, Ayr /Wellington, strathendrick/ Balfron, Cumnock / RBA they ALL are an amalgamation of school and club and they agree to play in one conference. There is no sense of entitlement that their players should play in two! GHA should consider this instead of thinking the rules are wrong because they don’t suit them

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    • I have to say two 60-70 minute games in a weekend is too much rugby and these rules are surely in place to protect player welfare.

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  10. Kids who play un School competition shouldn’t be in the youth cup too just to make it easier for the same teams to win.What chance do the single school catchment teams have of competing against a “regional” team like boroughmuir or Stirling if they’re then allowed to field private school lads?You just create “Manchester City” type kids teams of which only a couple will contest for the trophies every year.

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  11. I realise there is a lot going on at this level, but is it impossible to give a mention to the plate/bowl finals? The boys in those competitions will be giving just as much as the ones in the cup/shield and deserve a bit of recognition. A Border derby plate final between Kelso and Selkirk is coming up at Poynder Park this Saturday, not that anyone who read this article would know anything about it.

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    • Any players from the Under 16s GHA Cup winning squad chose to play for club rather than school. I know school players who were not allowed to play in cup games as they were no longer eligible to play. The cup winning side had players with outstanding talent and nobody should take that away from them. A large part of the team had been playing together from early primary days.
      Where is your evidence for this comment?

  12. It does beg the question how much the rules have been bent over the years when GHA compete strongly at all age groups until at under 18 when suddenly they struggle field a team.

    The whole youth set up needs looking at. I can only speak from my experience of following my own son’s rugby at Dumfries over the last few years. They’ve never lost a conference match, much of which has been down to the hard work and dedication of the boys and their coaches, but also due to struggling to find meaningful competition. I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful, but the first real test our boys had this season was in the semi final of the national cup against Boroughmuir. It could definitely be argued that had our boys been competing week in and week out with teams with similar abilities, they would have been better prepared for this step up in level of competition.

    Dumfries now sit at the top of the table for the national 2 youth conference and should be promoted to national 1 for next season (unless, despite the rules being very clear the SRU find a reason not to). Unfortunately this will be too late for my son and the older contingent of the team who will never see the rewards of their hard work.

    There has to be a way of looking at each team on their strengths and placing them in leagues with teams that would provide them with meaningful competition.

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  13. With the prospect of relegation from National 1 for the bottom club and GHA and Mackie looking like they will tie on points at the bottom, surely the SRU should look at the club which is more secure in its playing numbers and ability to fulfill fixtures in deciding who stays up.

    GhA have struggled to fulfill fixtures at u15 this season also, and have wrongly claimed 2 conference points in the process. ON 3 occasions they were unable to field an ELIGIBLE team, due to their Hutchi players having played the previous day in the school conference, instead of not playing the fixture GHA asked to play a ‘development game’ . However they then fielded the very Hutchi players who had played the day before in order to fulfil the development game with a full team, and more importantly, take a conference point in the process.
    These games should have been be classified as friendlies not development games and should not have resulted in conference points being awarded when some of their players were ineligible to play in the conference.
    The u15 result at Ayr was recorded by the home team as a U so no points were awarded to GHA but the other two games were played at home so GHA logged the result and recorded a DEV, claiming 1 point each time.
    With the bottom of the table looking like it could end in a tie between Mackie and GHA surely there needs to be questions asked about the integrity of GHA’s points. They should be deducted 2 points for claiming conference points using ineligible players. I’m surprised West and Boroughmuir, the opposition teams involved, haven’t questioned them on this, considering it could wrongly relegate Mackie, it’s pretty important to pay attention to the detail.

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  14. Pegi, it is the job of clubs to have a youth policy which promotes rugby in schools that don’t have a good rugby set up. This is to enable kids who can’t access rugby at school to be able to play the sport and join in competitive rugby.

    Lots of schools do a great job with their rugby players and provide quality rugby environments and competitive games, this includes the two schools GHA are affiliated to as an FP club. The problem is that GHA rely too heavily on those two schools to provide them with players and win competitions in the Youth game. However, as a club, they are supposed to grow the game through reaching the kids who don’t get rugby at school, that is the purpose of Youth Rugby. By allowing those who already receive excellent training and quality games through their schools to also take their place in a youth team the next day doesn’t encourage clubs to grow the game and bring new players into the game from other avenues.

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  15. GHA have been at it for years unchecked by SRU – breaching competition rules, playing time rules , calling off games when schoolboys unavailable, screwing conference points for ‘development games’ with ineligible players. In fact rewarded with Fosroc selection for additional St Als and Hutchie players masquerading as GHA.

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    • Coachpotato claims to be a coach.
      It’s just a shame he chose not to include the club he represents. It would be helpful in deciding where not to send kids for their rugby. The level of toxicity and BS on display there is breathtaking.

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  16. Will be interesting to hear if the issues at GHA stem from Murrayfield insisting that kids cannot play in both Club & Schools competitions.

    Not only are we the only nation in the world to have a playing time directive set at 1 game in a weekend, we are now banning kids from playing for both Club and School.

    Realistically, how many kids across our society are playing too much rugby?

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  17. With the prospect of relegation from National 1 for the bottom club and GHA and Mackie looking like they will tie on points at the bottom, surely the SRU should look at the club which is more secure in its playing numbers and ability to fulfill fixtures in deciding who stays up.

    GhA have struggled to fulfill fixtures at u15 this season also, and have wrongly claimed 2 conference points in the process. ON 3 occasions they were unable to field an ELIGIBLE team, due to their Hutchi players having played the previous day in the school conference, instead of not playing the fixture GHA asked to play a ‘development game’ . However they then fielded the very Hutchi players who had played the day before in order to fulfil the development game with a full team, and more importantly, take a conference point in the process.
    These games should have been be classified as friendlies not development games and should not have resulted in conference points being awarded when some of their players were ineligible to play in the conference.
    The u15 result at Ayr was recorded by the home team as a U so no points were awarded to GHA but the other two games were played at home so GHA logged the result and recorded a DEV, claiming 1 point each time.
    With the bottom of the table looking like it could end in a tie between Mackie and GHA surely there needs to be questions asked about the integrity of GHA’s points. They should be deducted 2 points for claiming conference points using ineligible players. I’m surprised West and Boroughmuir, the opposition teams involved, haven’t questioned them on this, considering it could wrongly relegate Mackie, it’s pretty important to pay attention to the detail.

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