Super Series: old dog Eddie Pollock says Scottish Rugby have missed a trick

Veteran Stirling Wolves coach says opportunities for young players will be curtailed by closure of league

Eddie Pollock with last year's Super Series Championship trophy. Image: Bryan Robertson
Eddie Pollock with last year's Super Series Championship trophy. Image: Bryan Robertson

YOU can’t help but chuckle. One major reason why Super6 (now Super Series) was set up was to give young coaches an opportunity to show what they could do. Instead, las year’s Championship was won by Stirling Wolves, coached by the wily old fox that is Eddie Pollock; a man who has been around the block more often than a bobby on the beat, just two months shy of his 67th birthday.

The Super Series Sprint starts tomorrow [Friday] with the Bulls hosting the Wolves in a rerun of November’s Championship final, while the Southern Knights play Edinburgh Rugby’s A-team.

This will be the last hurrah for the part-time professional tier, at least for the time being, thanks in no small part to the financial shambles Mark Dodson bequeathed to Scottish Rugby, and it is evidently an irritant to Pollock that the winners of the main event are not being granted a place in next season’s Premiership.

“They should have found a way to have everyone involved,” he says with the weary resignation of someone whose low expectations are rarely met. “They could have had an A & B league or a 14 team league.


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“It hasn’t been the best thing for Scottish Rugby. It is what it is and we will deal with it. Now we need to finish off the Super Series (Sprint) as well as we can because there is no point in doing it unless you do as well as you can.”

Pollock is one of the great survivors of Scottish Rugby, a well-kent face who has done it all and has the scars to prove it. He worked for Murrayfield for many years, coaching the national under-21s with David Leslie from 1996-2003. When he moved to coach the Scotland under-18s, Pollock says he still helped out with the 20s (as the side became) and was assistant to John Dalziel when Scotland’s 20s finished fifth in the world in June, 2017 after beating Australia.

Fast forward to today and he can be found sporting the colours of Dollar Academy or Stirling County, but all his considerable energies are currently focused on the upcoming “Sprint” and he insists that the Wolves have recruited well.

He bandies a few names like the “explosive” former England age grade breakaway Macenzzie Duncan who has been released by Bristol Bears, the giant 6ft 8ins lock Olujare Okugtibeju, of Nigerian heritage but Scottish qualified and currently training with Glasgow, and Steve Longwell, the hugely experienced tight-head who fairly recently found himself without a club when the Jersey Reds went to the wall.

But when asked to pick one player who we should keep tabs on, Pollock offers up the leggy winger Ross McKnight.

“He was let go by Glasgow [some time ago] but he had a great season for us, he just got better and better. Now he is back training with Glasgow, he has been since Christmas, so we are hoping that with the new set-up that he will get back in at some point.”

 

Ross McKnight was top try-scorer in the recent Super Series Championship with 15 touch-downs in 14 matches, including two in his team's play-off final win over Ayrshire Bulls. Image: Bryan Robertson
Ross McKnight was top try-scorer in the recent Super Series Championship with 15 touch-downs in 14 matches, including two in his team’s play-off final win over Ayrshire Bulls. Image: Bryan Robertson

 

One thing we can all agree upon is that all these aspiring professional players need regular rugby to develop and grow and it simply isn’t happening.

Pollock cites the case of Ben Salmon, an exciting prospect at outside centre/wing. He will play for Glasgow’s ‘A’ team this weekend but Pollock reckons he has had no more than six matches all season. Where would Finn Russell be now if he had managed just six competitive games a year as a youth!?

Pollock argues that getting a competitive side at under-20s level requires competitive fixtures for under-16s and under-18s and, while he doesn’t suggest how this may happen, he does point out that the Super Series was never designed with the Scotland under-20s in mind.

“It got tied into the under-20s scenario and it wasn’t designed for that. It was designed to produce players for the pro game,” he says, before reeling off a long list of pro players who benefitted from Super6/Series, including Tom Jordan, Stafford McDowell, Murphy Walker and Max Williamson, who looks the real deal.

I offer him one wish and he asks to go back to the start of professionalism, for the second time, so he can start four pro-teams/regions or, perhaps, three “plus a Connacht-style development side”.

I tighten up the regulations and remove the time machine, instead insisting he has to deal with the here and now?

“I’d replace the Super6 with a Super8,” comes the confident reply.

And the money will come from?

“They have to find the money somewhere,” Pollock retorts. “The reason we don’t have enough money at the moment is because we are spending too much on the pro teams. Take money off them and use the Super Series as your ‘A’ team or whatever you want to call it. I will put money on the fact that in three to five years time we will go back to a Super Series.

“My big worry is what happens going forward? Where are young players going to get the opportunity to show what they can do?

“We had 120 guys play 20 games a season in the Super Series. Gregor Hiddleston [the Wolves’ hooker] plays in the European Cup against Exeter and he is outstanding! Now he is obviously training with Glasgow as well as us but how is that going to happen for the next Gregor Hiddleston out there? He must have played 30 odd games for us!”

Pollock thinks ambitious young players should travel the globe in search of opportunities they can’t find in Scotland and he has a point; Russell was much improved by his sojourn in France, but the coach also acknowledges that Murrayfield is currently at a crossroads.

“I think the next appointment [of a High Performance Director] is really important,” he says. “There are a lot of good people at Murrayfield but the next decision is massive.

“If we get it wrong we could be in real trouble.”


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About Iain Morrison 146 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.

6 Comments

  1. It says something when the coach of the winning team says the competition is rubbish.

    How much did the SRU spend on this and on Dodson?

    Just think how that money could have been better spent to the benefit of Scottish rugby.

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  2. Mm professional paid coach of Super 6 side says competition should continue and the money should be found to keep funding it. Makes complete sense. Surprising the opposite decision has been made.

    Not only that but it’s now doing the things it was intended to do! Amazing it’s only taken 5 years.

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  3. My old P.E. Teacher. Eddie always knew his onions. He was great at making things simple.

    I think he’s absolutkey spot on in what he says.

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  4. Taking about finn, where did he get his game time as a young player? Falkirk and then went on to play at Ayr in the old premiership. Just like Ali price, Stafford mcdowell, Matt fagerson, Zander Fagerson, George Horne, Ross Thompson, Rory Darge, Jamie Bhatti, Scott Cummings, Kyle Rowe, Tom Gordon, Luke Crosbie, Jonny Matthews, the list goes on who all played in the old prem. Which didn’t provide a platform for playing pro rugby? These young players now would have had loads of game time in the premiership, it worked for all of the above so what’s the issue with it?

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    • Spot on. It’s S6 that’s blocked youth development. No mention in article about why Lewis Wynne n Logan Trotter seem to have been discarded or how the County club side that has been getting hammered in the 3rd tier would cope with Prem rugby let alone tier 2. Or indeed how many of the youth players have felt they had to leave Bridgehaugh after being fleeced for hundreds in subs and match fees to pay for S6 mercenaries.

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  5. Take money put of / from the rediculous salaries at the top of the sofa surfers at Murrayfield 😡

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