Scotland’s newest cap Craig enjoys the best of both worlds

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TIME is a funny thing, so the cliché says.

Back in October 30, 2010, Peebles’ Craig Borthwick lay in agony on his home pitch, having suffered a horrific double leg break against Borders rivals Gala.

Almost two years to the day – October 28, 2012 – and the same player scores a late try on his Scottish rugby league side debut against a star-studded second string England team.

And the 26-year-old now has his eyes set on the World Cup with Scotland’s first pool game on – you guessed it – October 29, 2013.

A spot at next year’s tournament in England and Wales would cap a remarkable comeback from a career-threatening injury.

Borthwick told TheSouthern: “My debut came at the right time in terms of putting myself in the shop window and hopefully this time next year I will be featuring in the World Cup.

“There are more guys to come back into the squad, but each country takes 24 players, so hopefully if I keep working hard, I can make it.”

The sight of Borderers travelling south to make a living from rugby league was once a fairly common one, with the likes of Kelso RFC pair Alan Tait and George Fairbairn both having hugely successful careers in the 13-a-side game.

Nowadays, it is less so, following union’s move to professionalism in 1995.

But Borthwick is an exception, turning out for Gala at union, as well as playing for the Edinburgh Eagles rugby league side, while still working as a stonemason.

He said: “I have always fancied playing rugby league, but there are not a lot of chances to do so up here.

“I think it suits my type of game in terms of the tackling and running with the ball. Of the two, I prefer rugby league.

“I first went along to the Edinburgh Eagles and from there got into the Scotland A squad. I was selected for the professional squad in 2010, but three days later had my injury against Gala.

“I went from such a high from being involved with the squad to breaking my leg and being out for almost a year.

“I got the chance to go to the pro squad again this year and attended training camps, and just missed out on the team for the Ireland game, before making the squad for the English Knights game (Scotland lost 62-24).

“I was a bit nervous beforehand, but I was told to go on and make an impact, and I managed to grab a try late on.

“It was a lot faster than I am used to and there were some big names involved, guys who are playing in the Super League and NRL in Australia.”

However, Craig is now back to union with Gala, and his coach George Graham is one of few men to have represented Scotland in both codes.

“I spoke to George about playing for Scotland at league and said I might be away for a few weeks with the international team,” said Borthwick.

“He had a wee grumble, but I think he saw the bigger picture. However, at the moment I am concentrating on Gala and keeping us in contention for the Premiership title.”

As for the chances of Scotland gaining a Super League team, Borthwick is unsure.

He said: “There is always talk of a professional team being set up in Scotland, but the funding is always the issue.

“I think if someone came up with the cash for a pro team, the game would take off.

“There is an opportunity, but as usual it comes down to money, which is tight at the moment.”

In a strange twist, Borthwick was handed his first cap by former Hull Kingston Rovers and Great Britain legend Fairbairn, who was born in Peebles.

Now Scotland team manager, Fairbairn believes his fellow Borderer can make the World Cup.

Speaking from the pub he owns in Hull, Fairbairn told us: “Craig has been in our squad for the past two seasons, but obviously suffered a bad leg break.

“But he has looked after himself well and is showing a lot of potential, so has a real chance of making the final World Cup squad.”