West Linton's Patrick Harrison learning on job after making pro rugby debut for Edinburgh at age of 18
Most rugby players can only dream of playing in world-famous grounds such as the 74,500-capacity Principality Stadium in Cardiff, but West Linton’s Patrick Harrison has already done that at the age of just 18.
Harrison left Peebles High School after S5 in the summer of 2019 and has been training with professional outfit Edinburgh this season as one of their stage-three academy players.
That has allowed him to integrate with the full squad - including internationalists such as fellow Borderer Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson - on a regular basis.
With several of those international players away with Scotland during the recent Six Nations and other squad members injured, he and other young talents were given chances to move a step closer to Edinburgh’s first-team matchday squad, and on Sunday, March 28, hooker Harrison made his professional debut, coming off the bench to replace Sam Kitchen in the 57th minute of Edinburgh’s Guinness Pro14 24-17 away defeat to the Dragons.
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The Dragons normally play at Rodney Parade in Newport, but it was out of action so the match was switched to the national team’s stadium in the Welsh capital.
“To make my debut anywhere for Edinburgh would have been special, but to do it in such an iconic stadium was amazing,” Harrison, 19 in June, told the Southern Reporter.
“I had been told earlier in the week that I would be on the bench and it was an exciting feeling, but it also brought a few nerves.
“When we arrived at the stadium on matchday, I tried to just take in the size of the place and then re-focus on my preparation and treat it like any other game.
“I got off to a bit of a wobbly start when I came on, but once I carried the ball and settled into things, I just tried to do my best to help the team.
“It was still quite strange getting used to having Welsh internationals like Ross Moriarty running at you and having to tackle them, though.
“Although we lost the game, we did pretty well in the second half and I thought I did okay, so it is now up to me to build on that and prove that I deserve more opportunities at this level going forward.”
Harrison became the fourth youngest debutant in Edinburgh’s history that day, but he’d been building up to that moment for over a decade.
“I started out playing mini-rugby at West Linton when I was about six or seven,” Harrison, who lives on a farm near the village with his family, explained.
“I then moved on to Peebles Rugby Club and I played in the minis and then the youth section as well as also playing rugby at Peebles High School.
“When I was in S5, I stepped back a bit from rugby and took up boxing before returning to play rugby for Peebles Colts at the end of the 2018-19 season.
“I was used to playing at centre, but the team needed me to play hooker in one game against Hawick.
“Ewan Simpson, one of the Borders age-grade coaches, was watching that match and he then invited me along to play in a trial game and things went from there.
“During season 2019-20 I was part of the Scottish Rugby Academy as a stage-two academy player training out of Galashiels and I also got some valuable game time with Peebles’ first XV before lockdown came last March.
“To earn a stage-three contract was a big boost to me and I am just trying to learn in the Edinburgh Rugby environment every day.”
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