SCRUM Web Editor Gary Heatly talks to Edinburgh Rugby’s Murray McCallum as he embarks on a professional career:
Murray McCallum turns 21 on Thursday – and while the rising rugby star had a dream 2016, the early signs this year are that 2017 is going to be even better.
Last year he performed very well for Scotland under-20s and Heriot’s and a few injuries then saw him come into the Edinburgh Rugby squad on a more regular basis.
In the last few weeks the tighthead prop has been a regular starter in the Guinness PRO12 and last month was handed his first full-time pro deal.
He will now be with Edinburgh until at least the summer of 2019 and Murray said: “I have been really happy to play as much as I have so far for Edinburgh this term.
“And now to know that my future at the club is secure for a couple of seasons it means I can take stock over the summer break and then try and kick on in 2017/18.
“Any young player who comes into the pro environment will find the first couple of games tricky because the step-up in intensity from club rugby and under-20s stuff takes a bit of getting used to.
“However, I really enjoyed the early challenges and since then the other props at the club have been great with me giving lots of advice and general helping out.
“Neil Cochrane has also been great with advice while working with Forwards Coach Steve Scott who has been there and done it as a front-row has really brought me on.
“The older, more experienced pros you come up against from other clubs try to use tactics that unsettle you early on at scrum time, but you get used to it and fight fire with fire, giving as good as you get.
“Myself and Jack Cosgrove [another young player who is sadly now injured] have been given the starting jerseys a lot in recent weeks and we feel we have been doing okay and now I just want to help the team get back to winning ways.”
Murray played football in his youth, but was soon persuaded to join his local rugby club in Dunfermline and he has never looked back.
“From then on I was hooked whilst at Woodmill High School and into my teens the move to Strathallan School helped me take my game on to the next level because I was surrounded by some very good players and we all pushed each other hard,” Murray recounts.
“For example, the school had myself and Zander Fagerson as props at the time so we were quite handy and the two of us used to talk a lot and help each other.
“It has been great to watch what Zander has done with Glasgow and Scotland and the two of us still text a lot and chat about things and it is good to have someone I know so well on the same route as me into pro rugby because I can ask him a few things.
“Those times at Strathallan, when I started playing for Caledonia and Scotland age-grade sides, certainly helped my game and I remember them fondly.
“After school I went to Aberdeen for a year and started studying for a degree Geology and Petroleum Geology whilst playing for Aberdeen Grammar.
“I was then into the Scotland under-20 set-up and earned my first batch of caps in the 2015 Six Nations and World Championships. That was a great learning curve for me.”
In that 2014/15 season Murray earned nine under-20 caps, including against England and New Zealand, and in the summer of 2015 he joined the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy and starting playing for Heriot’s in Edinburgh.
“Heriot’s was a great club for me because they were already a very well established BT Premiership side and I was playing alongside experienced campaigners and learning from Forwards Coach Steve Lawrie [a former Scotland cap],” Murray explained.
“Last season in 2015/16 we won three trophies and it was very fun to be a part of. I also earned a number of other [nine] Scotland under-20 caps and we beat England and Australia which shows that there was real talent in the group.
“This season I have also played for Heriot’s too, but because of injuries to the likes of WP Nel and Kevin Bryce and the Scotland call-up for Simon Berghan I have gained a lot of appearances for Edinburgh mainly at tighthead prop.
“That has been great and I am excited about the future and learning more.”
In recent times, Edinburgh have lost their last five PRO12 league matches, but Murray is sure things will come good when the action resumes later this month.
He said: “We know that we can compete with any teams in the division and have shown that at times, but we know we need to find an 80 minute performance.
“The guys are really working so hard in training, make no mistake about that.
“We are hurting more than anyone from the recent run and along with the coaches we are doing everything we can to get a big ‘W’ on the board to send the fans home happy.
“There is a break in the league now then we have one more league match towards the end of the month and then the La Rochelle European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final match.
“If we can win soon then it would put us in a much better place and frame of mind heading into the run-in.
“For me I just concentrate on one performance at a time because as a prop you can go from highs to lows quickly. You can win a scrum and then five minutes later get shoved back and lose one.”
Murray is pictured by David Gibson/FOTOSPORT at Myreside
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