Old Sedberghians prepare to face off as age-grade Six Nations begins

Written by Gary Heatly | Photo Credit: Scottish Rugby

Former pupils Rhys Tait, Oliver Melville and Murray Redpath are preparing to represent Scotland in the 2022 under-20 Six Nations rugby tournament which begins this Friday, February 4.

Public schools are universally recognised as one of the great cradles of the sport and Sedbergh School has been at the forefront of this since it began back in 1879. 

Fast forward 143 years and the school still takes its rugby very seriously and are delighted to see Glasgow Warriors back-row Rhys, who has been named Captain, and Newcastle University backs Oliver and Murray in Head Coach Kenny Murray’s Scotland age-grade squad for the showpiece event.

Sedbergh has always been a leading exponent of the game and has led the way with various forms of tactical experimentation in the early years. Old Sedberghians and international players such as JMB Scott and, later, WW Wakefield both had innovative ideas in the early 20th century on how to play the game skilfully and creatively.

The school, to date, has produced 41 full International rugby players of whom 17 have played for England, 18 have played for Scotland, four have played for Ireland and two have played for Wales.

The last few years have been superb for Sedbergh and the Old Sedberghians involved in the pro game now really have set a high bar.

Prop Bevan Rodd achieved his first full cap for England versus South Africa in the Autumn internationals and is likely to feature heavily again in the Six Nations for Eddie Jones’ men.

Cameron Redpath achieved his first full cap for Scotland last year when they beat England in the Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham.

“It is now great to see others following in Cameron’s Scottish footsteps with the three talented under-20 players – Rhys Tait, Oliver Melville and Murray Redpath – having worked hard and done well in the last year or so,” Sedbergh’s Director of Sport Stuart Oliver said.

“Cameron, Oliver and Murray were all in the same house at Sedbergh’s boarding school which is called Sedgwick House. 

“Sedgwick House was also the house for former full Scottish internationals and Lions Alastair and Mike Biggar and was formally the house for large numbers of Scottish pupils, many of whom went on to join Scottish regiments in the army.

“Rhys came to Sedbergh and played every game in his Sixth form and won all but one game for the first XV.  He was a player that led from the front and he was, without a doubt, the first name on the team sheet at that time.

“It is an absolute pleasure working with such outstanding talent at Sedbergh and seeing former pupils flourish after leaving school. We have enjoyed so much success over the last few years at Sedbergh and seeing these ex-pupils springboard onto the big stage is something that makes us very proud indeed. 

“We take pride in developing strong leaders and creating a positive and successful culture and this will, naturally, create better rugby players.”

“And, the good news is, there are still plenty more pupils to emerge from the conveyor belt of talent coming out of Sedbergh School.”    

Rhys: “I’m buzzing for it – I can’t wait to get stuck in”

Scotland’s opening match in this year’s under-20 Six Nations is against reigning champions England at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh on Friday evening (8pm) which is right beside BT Murrayfield where the two countries meet at full level the following day.

Nineteen-year-old Rhys, who is originally from the same Scottish Borders town of Hawick, will lead the Scots out for the match in front of, what is likely to be, an excitable home crowd.

Oliver starts on the wing, Murray misses this one due to Covid protocols, but will be back later in the Six Nations.

Rhys, Oliver and Murray all played in the same tournament last year, but as it was all played in Cardiff due to the pandemic, 2022 will be their first chance to turn out for the team at home.

“After Kenny Murray [the Head Coach] asked me to be Captain I was really chuffed and then, thinking about the England game, I thought: ‘Jeez, that’s going to be mad’,” Rhys said.

“Running out in front of everyone at the DAM Health Stadium in the first game against England will be brilliant.  I’m buzzing for it – I can’t wait to get stuck in.

“I was a little bit surprised to be asked to be Captain, but we had a few internal games and games against a Scotland Select where I was lucky enough to captain and now I get the opportunity to do that in the tournament.

“I’m really honoured to have been asked by Kenny and I’m really looking forward to leading the boys.

“It was a young group last year and we did have a tough ride [Scotland lost all five under-20 Six Nations games], but we can take that as a huge learning curve.

“Not managing to win wasn’t ideal, but a lot of those boys are coming back this year having been through that, so there is a real hunger to get stuck into this year’s Six Nations. Hopefully we’ll do a little bit better.

“Being involved with old school pals Ollie and Murray is great too.”

After that tournament in Wales which was held last summer, Rhys was awarded a full-time Academy contract with Glasgow Warriors.

It means that he trains with the professional outfit at Scotstoun and certainly impressed many in the first half of 2021/22 when he starred for Boroughmuir Bears in the part-time professional Super6 league.

Since those games he has had a solid block of training with the Warriors and adds:  “It’s obviously tough going into that professional environment as a young player, but it is really good seeing how the pros go about their business, so I think it has brought up the standard for all the young guys who have had that opportunity.

“It has been really good being in with the Warriors – a lot of guys have helped me a lot with my game, like Thomas Gordon and Rory Darge.

“Rory is now in the full Scotland squad so hopefully I can follow in his footsteps.”

On his skipper Rhys, Kenny Murray said:  “Rhys leads from the front, he leads by example and we showed a clip this week to the boys of him from last year making four tackles within 30 seconds in a game – his work rate and effort are excellent and he is really passionate about his game.

“He wants to do well, he wants to win and he brings a physicality, he is an inspirational guy to have as captain.”

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