Watsonians Reiss Cullen can’t wait to test himself at Bristol

Reiss Cullen was a key performer for Watsonians during their Sevens success. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Reiss Cullen was a key performer for Watsonians during their Sevens success. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Young rugby talent Reiss Cullen ended his Watsonians career in superb fashion at the weekend – and now the scrum-half is eager to hit the ground running in the pro ranks with Bristol.

Last month the English club, who will be playing in the Championship in 2017/18 after relegation from the top flight, announced the signing of the livewire back.

Since then Cullen, who turned 21 recently, has been starring on the Kings of the Sevens circuit in the Borders for Sonians and was instrumental in helping them lift the overall title for the first time since 2009.

On Saturday, fittingly, he bagged two tries in the final as the Myreside men won the Jed-Forest Sevens before his team-mates wished him well for the move south.

He will join up with Bristol in late June after a break – and he cannot wait to test himself at the next level.

“Since I was in my early teens all I have wanted to do is play rugby, so to get this opportunity with a professional club in England is massive for me,” Cullen said.

“To be able to train every day and work on my game surrounded by experienced players, some who even have international caps, is something I cannot wait to do.

“I know it will be a big step for me, but I will work hard during the pre-season and show the coaches at Bristol that I am learning all of the time and hopefully I can earn a spot in the first team squad when the league kicks off.

“The club have been relegated, but they are very ambitious and want to get back to the Aviva Premiership at the first time of asking.

“The facilities and everything about the set-up down there is class, so after a few weeks off I will be relocating and starting an exciting new journey.”

Cullen began playing rugby when he was in senior one at school, with football previously his main sport.

He immediately fell in love with the oval-ball version and played through his school years at his local club Biggar, eventually turning out for the first XV.

In 2014 he moved to the Capital to study on the rugby performance course at Edinburgh College and at the same time he joined Watsonians.

“It was a big thing for me moving away from home, but both the course and Watsonians were great for myself and my development,” he said.

“The course was led by experienced guys like Rob Chrystie [now Melrose head coach] and Jamie Parker [now part of the Heriot’s coaching set-up] and it gave us a glimpse of the hard work needed to get anywhere near pro rugby.

“Watsonians were in BT National League Division One at the time and the set-up there was a step up from Biggar and I managed to get into the first-team squad.

“Working with the likes of [then head coach] Marcus Di Rollo was brilliant for me and by the time 2015/16 came around I was getting a lot of starts.

“We won the league that year and in the season just gone I loved testing myself in the BT Premiership and it was great that the club stayed up and they are in a good place for the future.

“I have always loved the sevens form of the game and last season [2015/16] I trained with the Scotland Sevens squad on a regular basis.

“This year at Sonians we knew we had a good sevens group and to go on and win the Kings of the Sevens was a great end to my time there.”

When Cullen does get down to Bristol – who going forward are to be coached by Pat Lam, who led Connacht to the PRO12 title in 2015/16 – he will be learning from the likes of Ireland internationalist Ian Madigan.

It certainly is exciting times for this determined character.