Over the years we got used to seeing former Edinburgh Rugby favourite Hugo Southwell catching high balls at BT Murrayfield, but this summer you’ll find him batting at Carlton’s Grange Loan ground following his return to cricket.
Southwell had a distinguished rugby career, earning 59 caps for Scotland between 2004 and 2011 at full-back and playing professionally for Edinburgh, Stade Francais and Wasps.
He retired from the sport back in 2014 and, having recently relocated from London to the Capital with his family, decided to take up cricket once again.
When he was a youngster Southwell was an accomplished cricketer and came through the youth ranks at Sussex before deciding to go to university and then head down the rugby route.
“I loved my cricket when I was in my teens and was lucky enough to link-up with Sussex and come through the ranks there with some very good players,” Southwell, now 35, said.
“The best player in the team at that time was Matt Prior and he went on to do great things with England.
“Mike Yardy was also around at the time and he also played for England and has had a distinguished county career.
“I then moved on to other things, but I have always had a keen interest in cricket and when I was playing rugby I turned out for Heriot’s over the summer sometimes.
“My wife and I have been keen to relocate to Edinburgh for some time now and when it became feasible to do my work [with Trotter UK, the outdoor advertising company] from up here we jumped at the chance.
“Our two children are now settled here and as we live near Grange Loan I got in touch with Carlton captain Steve Gilmour and things went from there.”
Southwell, who is a batsman predominantly who can bowl some medium pace if required, headed along to training at the CSL Eastern Premiership club a few weeks back and he has been impressed by the set-up there so far.
He explained: “I wasn’t sure quite what to expect because I have been out of the Scottish cricket loop for quite some time.
“However, what I have found is some very talented experienced players like Fraser Watts, Gordon Drummond and Steve and some really good young players who work ever so hard in the nets and will be pushing us older guys hard for places in the first XI over the coming months.
“I was pleased to get involved in the friendly against Watsonians [on April 23] to get a proper match under my belt as it had been a while.
“When you have played sport at any level when you step back from it you always miss the competitive battles and the banter that goes on in the changing rooms and everyone at Carlton has really made me feel at home straight away.”
Southwell made his league debut for the first XI on Saturday in the five wicket win over Heriot’s in the top flight and while he made a duck he fielded well and contributed to the victory.
With family and work commitments – he still has to travel to London occasionally – Southwell is not sure how often he will be available to play, but is certainly free for the first six weeks of the summer
“I am just enjoying being back playing sport again and it is great to be able to get to know some new team-mates and travel to some grounds that I have not played at before,” Southwell added.
Carlton skipper Gilmour said of his new recruit: “It was great to hear from Hugo out of the blue and his experience of top level sport will be a welcome addition to our squad.”