Calders light the way for Toolis twins

Ben, with beard, and Alex Toolis meet Edinburgh Rugby assistant coach Stevie Scott
Ben, with beard, and Alex Toolis meet Edinburgh Rugby assistant coach Stevie Scott
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The last time an Edinburgh rugby side fielded twins was in the late 1980s and coincided with a golden era of amateur inter-district titles culminating in routs of Glasgow (48-12) and Borders (29-7).

There again, Jim Calder had earlier scored a Grand Slam-winning try and sibling Finlay was on the way to becoming Lions’ captain at the end of that 1989 season, so the successes were not unsurprising.

Together the Calders represented Edinburgh more than 30 times over half a decade and, made aware of this at Murrayfield, twins Ben and Alex Toolis acknowledged they are following in illustrious footsteps.

At the same time, the 6ft 7in second row pair, raised in Australia of Scottish ancestry and flown in to bolster the Edinburgh squad, realise they still have everything to prove – certainly in comparison to the Calders!

“We have grown up playing pretty much every sport and playing alongside each other a lot. We always seem to know what each other is thinking and it would be great to play together for Edinburgh, but we know a lot of hard work lies ahead,” said Alex, his views – surprise, surprise – echoed by Ben.

Where they differ, though, is that the latter stuck longer with their other sporting love of volleyball.

“I was picked for the Australian junior (under-20) team,” recalled Ben, adding: “and that meant going to the Asian Championships in Iran.

“On the plane over there were thoughts that it might be a scary place we were heading into.

“You heard about the deserts and so on, but it was great and the volleyball meant going up against China, Japan, Thailand.”

So there is a level of sporting achievement, having both also been graduates of Australia’s national rugby academy, that will ensure a really competitive edge and therefore it is no surprise that, on being alerted during a visit back home, Scotland’s coach/director of rugby Scott Johnson wanted to find out more.

“Our agent was friends with Scott Johnson, he spoke to Scott and sent him footage of us playing with Brisbane Grammar Old Boys,” said Ben.

That is the club which produced the likes of Ben Tune and Matt Cockbain for the Wallabies and Ben added: “We were always aware of our Scottish background but didn’t know what opportunity would come from it.”

Unlike some imports, too, the Toolises have been here before, Alex explaining: “We came on a family holiday aged ten and coincided our visit with a Scottish new year!”