HAVING played rugby in Scotland, the USA and Ireland, as well as carried out a bit of coaching, Jamie Berrisford has packed a lot into his 25 years, and now he is making the most of his first taste of Super6 action.
The second-row joined Watsonians ahead of the ongoing Super6 Championship and although his work in the tight and at set-piece has been very good, his name became better known to a wider audience because of his unlikely try scoring spree.
He scored two against Heriot’s in round three of action, one against the Ayrshire Bulls in round four, another against Stirling Wolves in round five, and his fifth of the campaign in a man-of-the-match performance against Southern Knights last weekend (taking him to joint second in the Super6 try-scoring table).
“It is always nice to score, but the combined metres for all four tries can’t be that much, so I have to say thanks to my team-mates for doing the hard yards and putting me in for the scores,” Berrisford said with a smile
“I came over from Ireland in the summer to play in Super6 and although I had watched a bit of footage, I was not sure exactly what standard to expect.
“The standard has been excellent and up front we have certainly been involved in some very physical games. Coming into a Watsonians squad that was coming off the back of winning the Sprint Series has also been good because everyone in the group sets high standards and pushes each other on.”
Berrisford grew up in Stonehaven in the North East of Scotland and began playing rugby at local club Mackie Academy when he was six, right up until under-18s level.
“I then moved down to Edinburgh after school and was part of the Rugby Performance Course at Edinburgh College,” Berrisford explains.
“The year after I did a Sports Coaching course also at Edinburgh College and during those two years I was playing club rugby with Stewart’s Melville which helped me push on into the Edinburgh under-20s representative stuff.
“When I didn’t get picked for anything more after the Edinburgh under-20s I decided I wanted to try something completely different and get away from Scotland.
“The idea of a sports scholarship to America always sounded cool, but I never thought it would be possible with rugby until I looked into it.
“Through FirstPoint USA I began to research the possibilities and they helped me with the logistics of things including putting video footage of me playing together, then visas and things like that once I received an offer from a university. It was quite a complex process, but the guys at FirstPoint made it easier.”
Berrisford ended up attending Life University in Marietta, Georgia, which is just outside Atlanta. While there he completed a degree alongside being part of a well respected rugby programme. Indeed, during his stint there, Life University won back-to-back national championships and he was one of the several members to the squad to achieve ‘All American’ honours.
“I packed my bags and shipped off to the deep south, it was a bit different from the pace of life in the North East of Scotland,” Berrisford explains. “In terms of the rugby out there, I was surprised by the standard, but the guys in our programme were very athletic and in great shape and the coaching there was also really good.
“My team-mates were excellent and helped me settle in no bother, and I definitely think I improved as a rugby player while I was there.
“At the end of my third year over there I got a call from my coach to tell me that I didn’t have any collegiate eligibility left, so I could not play in the last year, but I was able to be an assistant coach.
“It was quite a steep learning curve coaching my friends, many of whom I’d played with the year before, but I really enjoyed it and it was good to dip into that side of the game before I left America.”
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Next on Berrisford’s travels was a couple of years in Dublin. Trinity Rugby director of rugby Tony Smeeth has a link-up with Life University and always tries to bring in players from America as well as sending some players over there to play.
The players who head to Ireland from the USA play for Trinity Rugby [who play as Dublin University in All-Ireland League 1A] and work at Blackrock College [a secondary day and boarding school]. Berrisford was lucky enough to be given that opportunity.
“I moved over to Dublin in August 2020, just before I graduated from Life University, and I stayed there until June 2022,”he explained
“The standard of rugby I was playing was really good, if you look at the four second-rows who were at my club last year as an example, there was myself, Harry Sheridan who is with Ulster, Jack Dunne who is with Exeter Chiefs, and Joe McCarthy who is with Leinster and was on the tour to New Zealand in the summer with Ireland.
“The coaching there was great, too, and S & C coach Ian Hirst was a big part of my time there and helped my progress a lot.
“And working and coaching youngsters at Blackrock you could see why Leinster are so good and why so many young players make their mark in Ireland. The Leinster Academy system has eyes on every player and has some great pathways in place so that no one is missed.
“I had a great time over there, but, as I said, my team-mates and the coaches have made my move back to Scotland seamless and I enjoying the matches in Super6.
“Having left Scotland quite young I always felt I had a bit of unfinished business in terms of my rugby here.”