For Murray McCallum, 2016 will go down as the year in which he achieved an abundance of career goals.
In the opening under-20 6 Nations match back in February, the prop scored a try in Scotland’s 24-6 demolition of England, before following that up with further scores in games against Wales and Italy.
Success with Heriot’s in April, to the tune of a superb championship and cup double, served as a precursor for another famous under-20 result, this time in Scotland’s 15-10 World Championship win over Australia, a first at that level.
But perhaps the 20 year-old’s finest achievement in the past 12 months was the ability to earn some playing time with Edinburgh Rugby, marking his first foray into the professional game.
A BT Sport Academy Stage 3 product, Murray made his Edinburgh debut off the bench against Treviso and grabbed a first start in their bonus-point win over Timisoara Saracens in the European Rugby Challenge Cup back in October, going on to become a feature under interim boss Duncan Hodge.
Murray can now add the SCRUM Player of the Month for December to his list of accolades, an award which delighted the youngster: “I’m delighted to have had the supporters vote for me and it makes me feel even more part of the squad. It’s been great to get some game time this season and some of the games have been played in really good atmospheres.
“The players have made me welcome, but for the Edinburgh fans to recognise me shows I’m not just there to make up the numbers. We have had some really good results recently and the squad is really close but competitive.”
His 2016 started with those tries in three consecutive matches for Scotland under-20 and it was that period that really set the tone for Murray’s annus mirabilis. Recounting the scoring glut, he said: “I was just in the right place at the right time in those games, but the England one was special. They are hardly lacking in players, but we just managed to bump up our performance in every aspect and it made the difference.”
Bumping up his own performances led to an opportunity at Edinburgh, with the professional club’s injury catalogue affording Murray a chance to shine.
The burly prop is learning from some excellent forwards at Edinburgh, and says that he’s enjoying the whole experience: “The other props have been helping me adjust to this level of rugby, more psychologically than anything. The key thing I’ve picked up is to have the confidence to believe you’re always going forward against the opposing pack. As soon as you stop thinking like that, the other team will get the upper hand.
“I didn’t expect to have played as much as I have but I feel comfortable in this company. The intensity is the highest I’ve come across and I do have to admit to being a little star struck at times, like when we played the Ospreys and I was up against Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric!”
He also faced some notable rugby characters when Edinburgh hosted Harlequins in the European Rugby Challenge Cup back in October, although the game will stick in Murray’s mind for other reasons. He had started Heriot’s home fixture with Stirling County and was promptly hauled off to go and sit on the bench for Edinburgh, because of a late injury to Rory Sutherland. Recalling the comedic scenario, Murray said: “In the space of seven minutes I’d scored a try, won a scrum penalty, gave away a scrum penalty, and got told to get off the pitch!
“I had to get up to BT Murrayfield as soon as possible to cover from the bench, so I quickly got my Heriot’s blazer and smart trousers on and got up there! To come on in a game like that, when the opposition included the likes of Jamie Roberts and Chris Robshaw, rounded off a very bizarre afternoon.”
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