HARRY LEONARD lines up for Edinburgh Rugby against Newport Gwent Dragons at Murrayfield tonight determined to carry on where he left off in Scottish under-20 colours.
Having been part of Edinburgh’s team which came from 24 points down to defeat Racing Metro in this season’s European Cup, 19-year-old Leonard already knew there was no such thing as a lost cause.
However, even that comeback was challenged by the way the Scotland under-20s he captained conjured up two tries – one by Leonard himself – in the final few minutes to overhaul Italian counterparts last weekend.
“I guess it was all about never-say-die attitude and I bring that back to the Edinburgh cause,” said Leonard, adding: “I’ve learned that you keep going until the end and you never know what will happen.
“It was a great game. They ran out of steam after 60 or 70 minutes and to come back from two tries down was pretty pleasing.
“I don’t think I have been in a game where my team have been that down and out and yet come back – especially away.”
According to Leonard the captaincy honour bestowed on him at age-group level can contribute to an even more assured performance with Edinburgh.
“Whether or not you are captain at stand off you have to have good leadership qualities because you are inevitably the playmaker and have to boss people around.
“It is hard with older players and Scotland players around sometimes and it is tough telling them what to do. But I think they expect that of you.
“So far as being captain of the under-20s is concerned hopefully that has improved my game management.”
A starting role with Edinburgh and national age-group captaincy has enabled former Sussex County Schools footballer Leonard to build on a summer in New Zealand under the Macphail Scholarship scheme.
Stressing how that had prepared him for pro action he says: “I learned game management skills as well as technical pieces from some very good coaches out there.
“I’m much further ahead in my career than I thought I’d be – but look at Matt Scott.
“It was surreal to see someone like Matt who sits alongside us in the national academy changing room running out to play for Scotland against Ireland – and hugely encouraging for the rest of us.”
In fact, Scott has the distinction tonight of being one of only three Scotland internationalists in the home line-up and, without looking too far ahead, coach Michael Bradley has challenged each player to boost claims for a place in the forthcoming Euro quarter final with Toulouse.
“It is an opportunity to be in the frame for the biggest match in a decade as well as starting a good run to the end of the season,” says Bradley, adding: “We are conscious of the Toulouse game [on April 7], but also very aware we have been on wrong side of results.”
On the emergence of Matt Scott as a capped player, the coach said: “Matt Scott has had an amazing year for a lad who is just starting his pro career and finishing a law degree. Hopefully he can concentrate on the finer details of playing the game and keep improving.
“It strengthens the link and necessity of clubs operating at a high level and doing their job in terms of producing these players. It is a good message all round.”
Alongside Scott will be 21-year-old fellow centre Dougie Fife and, remarkably, the pair also started Currie’s opening premiership match against Gala last August.
Fife had to wait longer for an opportunity, but took it with both hands by scoring a try and earning man-of-the-match honours against Ospreys a few weeks ago.
This will be his second start, and he says: “I still have a year on my academy contract and I want to add to that as well as push for a first European outing in the future.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh have a chance to move up one place in the table, but will have to overcome a Dragons side reinforced by lock Luke Charteris returning from Wales’ Six Nations grand slam.