STIRLING WOLVES tight-head prop George Breese believes learning from Gary Holborn and Eddie Pollock at Bridgehaugh in recent months has left him in a good place to kick on with the Scotland under-20s squad for the rest of the Six Nations.
Breese, 18, was a late call-up to the Scotland 23 for the first match of the age-grade tournament in Ireland at the end of January when an injury to Dan Gamble ruled the Heriot’s Super6 man out of the campaign. In that game in Cork, Breese came off the bench for the last 15 minutes to replace Mak Wilson of Southern Knights and he did the same in the match against England at Myreside seven days later.
He was then an unused replacement last Friday night as the young Scots recorded their first win of 2020 in Italy and he is expected to play a part in the final two matches of the competition next month against France and Wales.
Any young prop heading through the different levels needs to have experienced heads to learn from and in terms of Wolves player/coach Holborn and club forwards coach Pollock, Breese has the perfect mentors.
Holborn has been involved in the club game for more years than he may care to remember, but the man who earned Club XV caps while at Melrose in 2012 and 2013 has been enjoying working with teenager Breese as has the ultra experienced Pollock.
“Gary has been great with me and has taught me a lot since I joined the club,” said Breese. “He loves scrummaging and relishes that part of the game, so working with him and Eddie has been great for me.
“They have set-up a Whatsapp group with me so that they can analyse my scrummaging and that sort of detail has really helped me and given me a big confidence boost because when I joined the club last summer I was just out of school. Chris Faill, the Wolves head coach, has also been good with me and there are a great bunch of boys at the club so joining was definitely the right move for me.
Breese grew up in Yorkshire and started playing rugby when he was about five or six, before head north to attend Glenalmond College when he was 13. “I was lucky at Glenalmond to work with some good coaches and players over the years and that helped my rugby move onwards and I became involved with Caledonia age-grade squads,” said Breese, who qualifies for Scotland through his paternal grandfather. “Front-row has always been my position and I switched to tight-head permanently when I was around 14. I played for Scotland under-16s, then in a training match with England at under-17 level and then was hopeful of playing under-18s last year before I broke my leg.
“That kept me out for about three months which was frustrating, but I worked hard to get back to full fitness and then left school last summer.”
Breese, who is now enrolled on a business course at Strathclyde University, moved to Stirling to join up with the Wolves soon after school ended while, as a Scottish Rugby Academy stage two player, he also undertook a pretty full-on pre-season at Scotstoun in Glasgow.
He turned out for Scotland Under-19s in Wales in December before his call-up to the under-20 squad ahead of the start of the Six Nations. “Sean Lineen has created a good environment there, the older boys in the squad have made me feel really welcome and working with forwards coach Shade Munro and [specialist scrum coach] Ali Dickinson has been excellent,” he said.
“They both know a lot about forward play and we all learn from them while Ali has been focused on getting the front-row to really work together as a unit because that is how we can be most effective in matches. It was pleasing for us to get the win against Italy, but we still feel we have a lot more to give and have quickly refocused on the last two matches.”
Stirling Wolves are currently sixth in National One and still harbour hopes of a top four finish. To do that a win against Melrose, currently in fourth, this coming weekend would be crucial, although it remains to be seen if Breese will play or be rested for that one.
“George came into our squad at the start of this season and he fitted in well to the group,” said Faill. “He has worked hard on all aspects of his game and has really benefited from the experience of being coached by – and playing alongside – Gary Holborn.
“I think George is a great example of someone who is keen to learn and improve. To see his development over this season and his progress into the 20s squad is fantastic – he’s the first Stirling Wolf to gain an age grade cap and hopefully there will be many more.”
- Stirling Wolves take on Melrose in Tennent’s National League Division One at Bridgehaugh at 3pm on Saturday, while Scotland Under-20s are next in action against France on Friday, March 6 at Netherdale at 8pm