Rugby: Neil Cochrane’s buzz over Wasps move

Neil Cochrane has been capped at Under-19 level in rugby and cricket. Picture: Esme Allen

Neil Cochrane has been capped at Under-19 level in rugby and cricket. Picture: Esme Allen

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Exiled Capital rugby star Neil Cochrane is prepared to fulfil a long-held dream when he joins English Premiership side London Wasps over the summer.

Cochrane, who skippered Scotland under-21s to a win over England and also turned out for a Scottish under-19 cricket team under the captaincy of Saltires ace Kyle Coetzer (Northants), has spent the past eight years playing his rugby in the second tier Championship.

But, with encouragement from his Bedford Blues coaches to switch from back row to hooker two years ago, ex-Boroughmuir schoolboy Cochrane began to catch shrewd coaching eyes, culminating in a call from London Wasps.

“Things happened very quickly and the next thing I was being shown round the Wasps set-up by Head of Recruitment James Wade and undergoing a medical,” said Cochrane who is ready to return to full-time training having reached the end of a surveying and business degree.

He adds: “Bedford have been really supportive in standing behind me while I learned to play hooker and work out the inevitable problems.

“As things began to kick on, of course, the thought began to occur about why didn’t I switch earlier, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and I was pleased to be getting opportunities with Rotherham, Doncaster and latterly Bedford in the Championship when the offer didn’t come from Edinburgh or Glasgow.”

There was also the slight matter at Scotland Under-21s of his age-group being well stocked for hookers since Ross Ford and Steve Lawrie, rivals at Edinburgh Rugby, contested the Scotland under-21 shirt while Cochrane led from openside flanker.

Other contemporaries included subsequent caps Johnny Beattie, Nick de Luca and Ben Cairns.

“I think the way the modern game is that I can use what I learned at flanker when playing hooker.

“I’ve bulked up by about 5kgs but hookers are expected to be auxiliary back rows in terms of pace and mobility while carrying the responsibility for throwing in to the line-out.

“My next target is to try to establish myself at Wasps while recognising that competition will be tough.”

Of course, any Scot playing in England’s top league can expect to be in the representative frame.

Cochrane, whose amateur career was spent with Boroughmuir and Watsonians, wouldn’t deny his goal is to wear the dark blue jersey one day but he is realistic, too.

“I am in no doubt that priority lies in trying to make a good impression at Wasps ... after signing off at Bedford who are in the Championship play-offs.

“I want to give a club who have been so good to me everything in their attempt at promotion.

“I know Premiership auditors, at this moment, say the club aren’t equipped to fulfil all the creiteria to go up even if we do follow up a nine-point semi-final, first leg lead over Nottingham and then beat either Leeds or Newcastle. But that can change and it would be some feeling to take on Bedford as a Wasps player in the English Premiership,” adds Cochrane whose new team-mates include Scotland full back Hugo Southwell – also a sufficiently accomplished cricketer to have played three one day matches for a Sussex Xl coached by subsequent England mentor Peter Moores.