BOROUGHMUIR coach Bruce Aitchison has gone across the border in his quest to make the newly-promoted Meggetland outfit a Premiership force after heading to Leeds Carnegie for a fact-finding mission.
The English Championship club, who lie fourth in the table and are on course for the play-offs, have a strong connection with the local rugby league outfit, the Rhinos, and Aitchison believes there are plenty of ideas that can be transported back to the Capital.
However, the search for information could come at a cost, as ’Muir centre Alex Cox has accompanied the coach for a trial period at Carnegie.
Speaking from Leeds, Aitchison explained: “This opportunity has come about through Tommy McGee, the former Boroughmuir and Scotland A prop who is now helping coach Leeds’ forwards.
“Tommy phoned to congratulate Boroughmuir on winning the National League and a routine call turned into prolonged discussion about coaching ethos and philosophies and an invite south followed.
“Tommy told me, ‘Leeds are very open about what they are doing, why not come down?’ so I jumped at the chance.
“Alex Cox is someone I have the utmost regard for and since he has been involved in the Scotland sevens’ squad there is obviously a lot of talent to be brought out.
“He is keen to have a stab at playing to the highest possible standard and when I was at my previous club, Murrayfield Wanderers, that brought me into occasional contact with Graham Shiel who works with the Scotland sevens team. I was bending Graham’s ear at every opportunity regarding Alex’s potential.
“Obviously the intensity is different when it comes to him training with a full-time outfit like Leeds compared with Boroughmuir, but he doesn’t look out of place and who knows what might follow for Alex, especially as I have been able to see first-hand how the Carnegie players have accepted him in their sessions.”
As regards Aitchison’s own aspirations, he revealed: “I was picked up at the station by the Leeds kit man and it was straight on to observing video analysis and the way sessions are set-up. Skill sessions and team runs are also being monitored.
“One of the first things that struck me, though, was the way Carnegie use the fact they are situated in a rugby league/football heartland to try to tap into alternative ideas.”
In fact, head coach at Leeds is James Lowes who, in rugby league, won three Super League titles.
Aitchison added: “There is a very strong emphasis on ensuring there are no egos or hierarchies and that is a message always worth reinforcing.”
Of course, Edinburgh Rugby are known to make their training sessions available for local coaches to attend on occasions and Aitchison acknowledged: “In some ways I might be seen as ungrateful by heading over the border, but I am chasing all the knowledge I can get to help Boroughmuir, whether that is at Edinburgh or elsewhere.
“What has struck me whenever I have watched pro teams operate is the fact that the higher up the rugby ladder you go, the more time coaches want to spend with the players.
“Off the field, I have been impressed by the links that exist between Carnegie and other clubs in their area such as Wharfedale, where Tommy McGee started out coaching, while Leeds Met University have an integral role in the rugby club’s development.
“Tommy is in charge of rolling out a rugby programme at Leeds Met and with the structure well-oiled, Carnegie are entitled to feel they are in with a genuine chance of making next season’s Aviva Premiership.”
Another factor is the involvement of Sir Ian McGeechan, who has returned to the city in which he grew up and went on win Scotland caps as club chairman.
“My trip to Leeds’ Headingley headquarters this week will not be complete without an opportunity to sit down and pick the brains of the man who has led the Lions successfully and Scotland to a grand slam,” said a clearly starry-eyed Aitchison.