Rugby: Gilchrist’s progress will be inspiration for forward starlet

Robert McAlpine
Robert McAlpine
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One of the up-and-comings on whom Edinburgh Rugby will depend to get out of their slump – they have lot six successive games in all competitions – today vowed to use colleague Grant Gilchrist’s promotion to the Scotland squad as an immediate inspiration.

Second row Rob McAlpine’s career has already peaked this season with two cameo appearances from off the bench in the Heineken European Cup.

But while the results against Saracens and Munster were 
not what he or the team would have wished for, McAlpine rightly took his involvement as a sign of progress. “It was massive to get a Heineken Cup 
debut,” said the 21-year-old, pictured, who has also appeared in three league games and was on the bench for Friday’s match with Scarlets at Murrayfield.

He added: “Twelve months ago I couldn’t picture myself being in the biggest tournament there is after the World Cup. I was honoured to be part of the team and get a run about.”

Parallels with Gilchrist are inevitable; both had spells on the way through with the Stirling County club, both stand 6ft 7in tall and both had their first Edinburgh starts against Cardiff last season either at home or away.

Now McAlpine wants to follow his friend up the representative ladder by seizing any opportunity as the Test window is expected to relieve Edinburgh of the likes of Gilchrist, Dave Denton, Stuart McInally and Ross Rennie among the back five players while Netani Talei is out injured for six weeks, starting in Ulster on Friday.

“Grant is someone I have played with at Scotland Under-20s and against sometimes at club level when I was at West early in my career,” said McAlpine.

“Seeing what he has done in going from apprentice to pro contract to starting with Edinburgh and now on to the Scotland squad is absolutely massive and something I have to believe I can do also.

“I want to step up, take my chances and put a marker down where I can.

“The November Test period is something I can focus on and the Six Nations as well.”

McAlpine’s rugby pedigree is outstanding. “My granny’s brothers, Angus and Donald Cameron, both played for Scotland on the wing,” he recalls.

Although always a forward due to his size, McAlpine appears to have inherited some pace from his illustrious ancestors who gained ten caps between them in the 1950s.

“When I was at Glasgow Academy I took part in schools athletics specialising in triple jump and 400 metres,” he added. “Gradually, rugby took over and I was picked a year up to go with the Scotland Under-20s to the World Cup in Argentina and the following year I was back again in that tournament.

“It was tremendous experience, but there was more to it than that.

“While I was at the West of Scotland club, being coached by the likes of John Beattie (double British and Irish Lion), I was attached to Glasgow Warriors.

“However, after a while I was moved to Edinburgh and friendships made with Scotland Under-20s over two World Cups have helped me settle in the Capital.

“When I first came to Edinburgh I was a bit wary, but having played with the likes of Dave Denton, Stuart McInally, Harry Leonard, Robin Hislop and Alex Allan for Scotland Under-20s, there is no shortage of familiar faces around.

“Earlier this year I stopped travelling on a daily basis and now face just a five-minute or so commute to training, which will hopefully help my development.”