ARRON REED may speak like a died-in-the-wool Lancashire lad, and he represented England at age-grade level, but the 24-year-old winger is quick to highlight that his Scottish credentials are solid and that he didn’t need to think twice when the opportunity came along to throw his lot in with Gregor Townsend’s team.
“Gregor got in touch two years ago to let me know I was on his radar and around December time he came down to Manchester and said he was seriously looking at me because I was playing quite well at Sale,” explains the nephew of Steven Reed, the former Boroughmuir, Edinburgh and Bath winger of the late 1990s. “Then, a few days before selection [of the current Six Nations training group] he called me up and said ‘we want you in the squad so talk to your family and make a decision’, but it was a no-brainer for me to take the chance when it was there.
“My whole family are Scottish anyway, so they were like ‘obviously, you’ve got to play for Scotland!’ Even my girlfriend is Scottish and all of her side of the family are Scottish, They’re from Isle of Skye – she’s called Fiona Lockhart so that’s a pretty Scottish name isn’t it?!
“The reason I played England under-18s and under-20s [when he lined up alongside current Scotland squad-mate Cam Redpath] was because I was playing down in England, and at that age you just go with the flow really. I don’t think it feels too different now and when you get the chance to play international rugby you’ve got to take that chance.
“My dad was born in Edinburgh, my gran was from Coldstream and every summer we’d go up to Scotland and see them [grandparents], so I always knew my Scottish side was there and it was pretty influential through my childhood.
“Every time I go up to my gran’s she does ask me ‘when are you going to play for Scotland?’ So, she was always very keen for me to play and it’s always been talked about. Hopefully I can make them very proud and play for Scotland one day.”
While Reed is understandably careful not to get ahead of himself, he is acutely aware that his chances of fully nailing his colours to the Scottish mast during the upcoming Six Nations have been boosted by the misfortune of others in his position, including Darcy Graham, who is missing the first two rounds of the championship with a quad injury, and Ollie Smith, who is out long term with a knee injury.
It is almost certain that Blair Kinghorn will be at full-back against Wales next weekend, while Duhan van der Merwe will start on the left wing. So, it is looks like being a shoot-out between front-runner but only recently fit-again Kyle Steyn, once cappedKyle Rowe, novice Harry Paterson and Reed for the No 14 jersey.
“I don’t want to expect anything, but when people are injured you do feel you are getting closer to getting into the squad,” he acknowledges. “I don’t expect to play straight away, but I also want to push and try and get in the squad. I don’t want to just be happy to be here. I want to be happy, of course, but I want to also try and play. I just have to train as hard as I can, show myself and hopefully they will select me in a squad at some point.
“It’s every lad’s dream to play international rugby, isn’t it? So, obviously when the chance comes you have to take it and hopefully I’ll get picked in the squad now at some point.
“All of the boys are really good and made me feel very much part of the team already. I had to do an awkward stand-up and tell interesting facts about myself, and they made that as awkward as possible. But there were a few of us doing it … and I can’t reveal my interesting facts! I’d be happy to sing first song [as all debutants have to do after the game on the team bus] though as I think I’m quite a good singer, so looking forward to that.”
Standing at 5ft 8ins in his stocking feet, and weighing in at just over 13 stone, Reed is a player cut from the Darcy Graham mould, and he insists that he is enjoying the more expansive game-style he has experienced during his short time in the Scotland camp, compared to the more conservative approach he is used to at Sale.
“Being here is making me a better player already,” he insists. “The way Sale play it’s more kick and compete, whereas here it’s more about playing with the ball in your hands and that’s really good for me. The next step is to play, but I don’t know what will happen.
“The difficult point is all the information you have to take in over two or three days. You have the same calls but different words for them, and now I’ve got to go back to Sale to play Gloucester on Sunday, and switch back to the Sale calls again. But in terms of the way they play it will be easy to slot in because that’s how I want to play.
“Because the way Darcy plays is quite similar to me, and he’s similar size and speed, it makes you think you don’t have to be massive to play on the wing in international rugby,” he adds. “You can be a … not a little lad, but maybe a medium-sized lad, and still do well by using your speed and footwork to play in an international side.”
Reed was one of three dual-qualified Sale Sharks players courted by Townsend during the build-up to this Six Nations, but the only one who committed, with fellow winger Tom Roebuck (born in Inverness) opting to take an invite to be in the England squad instead, while Gus Warr (mother from Strathaven) appears to be leaning that way as well.
“I was speaking to Roebuck when we both got picked and we were like ‘imagine if we ended up playing against each other!’,” Reed smiles. “It would be so weird because we play with each other every week. It would be such a weird feeling looking up and seeing him opposite me when he’s always on my side. For Gus, he was pretty gutted he didn’t get picked [by England] but he’s playing well so hopefully one day he will.”