Rugby: Former Edinburgh prospect turns spy

Ross Samson
Ross Samson
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Scrum HALF Ross Samson insists he will have no point to prove if called upon to follow up his London Irish Premiership debut against former team Edinburgh in Saturday’s Heineken European Cup clash at the Madejski Stadium in Reading.

The 23-year-old spent two seasons at Edinburgh but opportunities were limited to one start and four bench outings, so he headed south this summer.

However, the one-time Stewart’s Melville prospect has suddenly seen his star soar with a full shift of 80 minutes as London Irish clawed back a deficit of 17 points to draw 24-24 at Leicester, leaving him hungry for further action for his club which spotted his potential while playing seven-a-sides for Scotland at a tournament in Las Vegas.

Says Samson: “It was disappointing that I wasn’t able to do more while at Edinburgh.

“However, there is no point in looking back and I don’t feel the need to prove anything. It is just another game on Saturday. It really doesn’t affect me as I have known situations where, if it gets a bit personal, it can affect players.”

While rightly keen to put the emphasis on getting regular run outs at a club where he is competing for a place alongside two other squad No. 9s, Samson admits he has been sought out for some inside information in the build-up to Saturday’s clash.

“I do have a good bit of inside knowledge and know the dangermen and where the weaknesses are at Edinburgh. London Irish have a solid game plan but I have sat down with the coaches and talked through who could be playing.”

So, where does Samson believe the danger lies to his new team?

“I would pinpoint Tim Visser and Ross Rennie as Edinburgh’s two best players by miles,” says the man who could find himself directly up against either Greig Laidlaw or Mike Blair, such is the scrum-half rivalry he left behind.

He adds: “At Edinburgh I was pigeon-holed as a running No. 9 and maybe somebody who struggled to manage games.

“London Irish coaches include Mike Catt who was a World Cup winner with England and is unbelievably good to work with. Mike has changed my game 100 per cent for the better while assistance from Toby Booth has also proved invaluable.

“I count myself fortunate to have been spotted.”

This time last year, Samson was mainly turning out for Boroughmuir in the amateur Scottish Premiership.

“One difference I have noticed in England is the existence of an A league for professional and semi-professional players and that has helped provide game-time.”

Any player who turns out at the top level in England is bound to come on to the radar of Scotland coaches but Samson insists his pre-occupation is making up for lost time in the pro ranks.

“Whether it is 20, 40, 60 or 80 minutes in a game I just want to play.

“The brand of rugby at London Irish is direct and there are guys from all over the world, a good mix internationally, whom I can learn from.

“We are fighting on three fronts for the Premiership, the LV Cup and, from this weekend, the Heineken European Cup, so hopefully that will create opportunities.

“I’m the first to admit I didn’t get enough game time in the Magners League to provide accurate comparisons. But from what I have seen every week is a tough fixture in England whereas in the Rabo Direct there are some weeks where you can afford to pick a younger team or try players in different positions.

“In England you risk crashing and burning by doing that.

“The crowd at London Irish is bigger, too, but it has to be recognised there are more people in the London area to draw on.”

Likely to swell the crowd at the Madejski Stadium is Ross’s dad, Brian, a former prop forward with Leith Accies and Howe of Fife, who is heading directly from his base camp at Mount Everest.

“Dad signed up for a charity trek in aid of Maggie’s Centre [which aids cancer sufferers].

“Our family are all very proud of his achievement in reaching Everest base camp (18,000 feet),” added Samson who has started to scale his own heights after Heineken Cup tasters with Edinburgh from off the bench against Bath and Ulster two seasons ago.