Scottish Rugby’s latest bright young thing has told how he thought the break that led to him becoming Edinburgh’s youngest-ever player was a mistake.
Winger Jamie Farndale, who came off the bench to make an Edinburgh debut in a RaboDirect PRO12 League game at Cardiff in April, initially assumed “wires had been crossed” earlier in the season when he was called up to Scotland’s under-20 squad.
Farndale said: “I had two more years at the same level when I went along to under-20 training thinking it was a mistake. I started the session thinking ‘why am I here’ because I was still attending (Scottish) under-18 training. I thought wires had been crossed but the under-20s was one of my goals and, helped by the experience of playing for Edinburgh in Cardiff, I managed to fulfil it at the World Junior Championships in South Africa in June.”
Fate certainly took a hand for that match, as the 18-year-old explained. “I travelled with Edinburgh as 25th man but someone dropped out, putting me on the bench. I had a day’s warning and part of the build-up was spent sitting in the hotel lobby learning moves. It proved to be worthwhile as someone went down injured and I was called on.
“I didn’t touch the ball much but I did put in a few tackles, so it was as solid a debut as I could have expected. The ice has now been broken as far as an Edinburgh debut is concerned which is a bonus. The experience certainly helped me in South Africa with Scotland under-20s.”
In fact, Farndale ended up as one of the brightest stars in a Scotland team, whose overall achievement has probably been underplayed. While it has been well-documented that Jamie’s six tries left him in first place, individually, ahead of Milford Keresoma of New Zealand and Jan Serfontein from winners South Africa, it is less well known that the young Scots finished top of the team try charts.
Sure, the play-off system meant Scotland ended up successfully contesting ninth place after the group stage ended, meaning lesser opposition. Nevertheless, and in view of the attention given to the try drought which recently afflicted the senior team, it is surely worth celebrating that the leading try-scoring teams were: Scotland 21, New Zealand 20, South Africa 19, Wales 18, Australia 15, England 14 and Ireland 13.
Farndale, who gives credit to centre Mark Bennett for several of his tries, added: “To finish up one of the senior players having started thinking ‘why am I here?’ was pretty special. Finishing top try scorer will add pressure but hopefully that will just spur me on.
“Anybody could be excused thinking that after a month away with a group of players you’d get bored but I loved it.
“We were a really tight group and the management helped by organising trips outwith the rugby. For example, we visited Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned as well as a school in a township and climbed Table Mountain.”
Once at the top of Cape Town’s most conspicuous tourist attraction Jamie demonstrated other skills. “While at Edinburgh Academy I learned to play the bagpipes and I was encouraged to take them on tour and even up Table Mountain.”
Referring to one of the sounds of the 2010 football World Cup, he said: “I was able to provide a bit of competition for the vuvuzela!”
It was also Edinburgh Academy that provided the backdrop for a career in junior international athletics. “Athletics has always been good for building on speed, which a winger has to have, and I was fortunate that at Edinburgh Academy (PE teacher) Mark Appleson was involved in rugby as well. “My speciality events were the 100 and 200 metres and I was picked for a junior pentathlon against England, Ireland and Wales. It was good fun but because of rugby commitments I was not best prepared, finishing 24th out of 25.”
Although a development signing with Edinburgh, Farndale expects to spend most of the season with an Accies club he helped secure a place in the top flight when he scored two tries in the defeat of Glasgow Hawks at the end of last season.
“I look forward to getting stuck in with Accies once again,” said Farndale, who attributes his English birthplace to a freak of nature. “My dad was in the Army based at Winchester and I arrived two months prematurely! It was always the intention that I’d be born in Scotland!”
Looking ahead to the new season, he said: “I need to get a solid base with Accies. I only played five games for them last season. If things go well there, who knows what might happen with Edinburgh? But so far as Accies are concerned it could be a really good team, especially having been joined by my Scotland under-20 prop forward colleague, Alex Allan (ex-Loughborough). Alex is a very good player, really strong. He had a few brilliant games for the under-20s this year and is one to keep an eye on.”
The reality is Alex Allan won’t be the only one to watch out for at Accies.