School pupils learn the skills of the trade from top players

MORE than 120 youngsters from three Borders secondary schools converged on the new all-weather surface at Netherdale on Monday to pick up some top training tips from the Edinburgh Rugby squad, writes Fiona Scott.

Heading the all-star coaching team was Gala legend Chris Paterson, the club’s record cap-holder and points scorer, who delivered a kicking masterclass with fellow full-back Jim Thompson, while try-machine Tim Visser coached catching and passing, and Fiji internationalist Netani Talei was among those who worked on off-load and tackle technique.

Borders rugby development officer Brian Renwick was responsible for co-ordinating proceedings, while club DOs Kevin Barrie (Jed-Forest), Ian Miller (Gala), John Johnstone (Hawick), Iain Paxton (Selkirk) and George Blair (Peebles) were also on hand to help out.

Lesson one was an impromtu brush-up on boot-cleaning techniques as the youngsters were introduced to the rules of playing on a 3G surface. The event had been scheduled to take place at Philiphaugh, but the recent frosty conditions meant an exciting run-out on the new pitch for the boys and girls.

Pupils from the Selkirk, Peebles and Hawick high schools were treated to skills and position-specific rugby training as a thank-you to the club’s growing support in the region as the players continued their recovery from the bonus-point win over London Irish which booked their place in the Heineken Cup quarter-final. A Scottish Heineken Cup record crowd of around 11,000 celebrated as former Selkirk star Lee Jones scored the bonus-point try that secured a home tie in the last eight – a first for any Scottish club.

Jones’ recent selection in Scotland’s 2012 RBS 6 Nations meant he couldn’t make the trip to the Borders, but the youngsters did get the chance to pick the brains of some of around 20 of the club’s top performers, as well as forwards coach Tom Smith, the former Scotland and British Lions prop.

Edinburgh Rugby chief executive Craig Docherty, said: “The support we’ve had at our recent matches from fans in the Borders has been excellent and it’s important that we recognise and repay that support with meaningful rugby events.”