Phil Cringle wants to do more than earn a debut start for Edinburgh this season. The teenage prop forward carries the hopes and aspirations of one of the most detached rugby communities in the British Isles.
For Cringle hails from the Isle of Man where competition usually means having catch a boat or plane to the mainland.
It is, however, the case that Manxmen can opt to try to represent any of the home nations in the same way that Budge Poutney emerged from the Channel Islands through a grandmother connection to go on and captain Scotland.
According to Cringle, aligning himself with the saltire was a particularly easy decision.
“Because of the Celtic connection, Manx people have always got on particularly well with the Scots,” he said. “That was why I jumped at the chance to play for Scotland under-18s which led me into the Edinburgh development squad and, last season, the national under-20s.”
In fact, Phil started against Ireland and Italy in the under-20 Six Nations after debuting from off the bench against England.
Building on that experience, he travelled to France for the junior World Cup a few months ago and after substitute appearances against Argentina, Wales and Samoa finished as a starter against Samoa (again) and the United States. All the while, too, he has been playing to honour his dad, Murray, a Manx farmer who chairs the island’s Rugby Union.
“I knew when I was 16 I had to get off the island if my rugby career was to progress,” he added. “Years earlier, my dad had the same opportunity as captain of the Manx team but opted to stay at home and look after our cattle and sheep. He has always been particularly supportive and I think there is a bit of him that regrets not giving rugby more of a go.
“So, I’d like to push even harder this season for dad’s sake as well as mine and also justify the opportunity given to me through a scholarship to Kirkham Grammar School, Lancashire, which has a great rugby tradition and produced England caps in Pat Sanderson and Richard Wigglesworth.
“That’s where I began to get noticed as the standard of rugby allowed me to play against some top schools as well as tour South Africa.”
Having been introduced to the Scottish club scene at National League Stewart’s Melville, where he is known to have made a positive impression, Cringle is preparing for a step up.
“I’ve been offered the chance to play Premiership rugby with Edinburgh Accies and having been at the club to meet the players and coaches I can’t wait to pull the jersey on.
“Of course, all the time I will be hoping this edges me closer to a debut with Edinburgh.”
Prop Alex Allan used exactly that route from Raeburn Place to Murrayfield last season and while it may be a case of filling “dead man’s shoes” it surely cannot harm the 6ft 2in and 17st 2lb Cringle’s prospects that Robin “Bomber” Hislop has just been ruled out until the new year with a broken leg.
“I am as Manx as Manx can be, but I am also as committed as is possible to get to Edinburgh and Scotland.
“If the Isle of Man got a sevens team together and somehow qualified for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games next year that would be an interesting choice.
“On the other hand, it would be pretty disappointing for them if they had to pick a prop forward for a sevens tournament!So far as I am aware no Manxman has achieved a pro rugby contract although one or two have reached academy standard. That is another incentive and what I am looking for is an opportunity which it is then up to me to take.”
In fact, Cringle has so far proved pretty good at seizing the moment, as his CV – with a Scotland under-20 team who retained their place in the elite group – showed.
“We felt as a squad we could have done a little bit better, but the encouraging aspect is that as many as ten of us could be back again this season with the under-20s.
“Between joining Accies, the under-20s and pushing for a chance with Edinburgh, it has the potential to be a really exciting season ahead for myself and Isle of Man rugby and maybe even get the isle known for something else in sport along with cycling and TT Motor cycle racing!”