Former Scotland captain Jason White launched his new coaching career at grassroots level with Watsonians this week and resolved to help the club that put him on the road to becoming a British and Irish Lion recover top-flight status.
The acquisition of White to join a panel that includes fellow internationalists Barry Stewart and Marcus Di Rollo as well ex-Scotland A wing Conan Sharman was announced earlier this summer.
And, after addressing the formalities of a move from France where he ended his playing career, White is ready to start passing on advice first hand according to head coach Di Rollo, who says: “I know from my own experience (he was once attached to Toulouse) that there is a lot to be taken into account when moving back home but Jason is getting settled in Edinburgh and is going to be a very positive influence at Myreside.
“So far he has been assisting from afar while Barry has been excellent in his first real coaching role. Barry’s very enthusiastic and everything he does is for a reason – a great addition.”
Watsonians have already taken around 30 players to Glencorse Barracks at Penicuik for an all-day training and bonding session under Army supervision while this Saturday will see a joint training stint with Melrose in the Borders culminating in a match over three 20 minute periods.
Di Rollo says: “We have Gala, away, and Edinburgh Accies at home in the run-up to the National League and things are looking very positive with a number of new players coming on board.”
Not surprisingly considering Watsonians have acquired former Edinburgh and Scotland prop Allan Jacobsen, many of those recruits are front row players eager to enhance knowledge available from a maestro who has already been balancing training with starting a new business on retiral from the pro scene.
“James Forrester is a prop I noticed playing for the Co-Optimists Select team out of the Perthshire club and he has come along while Martin Christie (ex-Gala) has set up a personal training business in Edinburgh and wants to cut down on travelling,” adds Di Rollo. “Danny Moussa is also back refreshed from a sabbatical and Matt Brierley, a kiwi hooker, has pitched up from Musselburgh.”
Other arrivals include Matt Paige, an Australian scrum half previously based in London who will compete for the jersey with – among others – Ramsay Young, a recent Scotland Under-18 cap who has returned to the club. Also, full back/stand off Ally Ledingham has joined from Cumbria, where he reached county standard, on the back of a recommendation from former Scotland sevens captain, Mark Lee, while school leavers enlisting include hooker Hamish Campbell, second row Matt Pool and back five forward Neil Irvine-Hess who is part of the Edinburgh youth set up but has dispensation to join Watsonians, proving the emphasis is now on local talent.
Di Rollo: “A lot of the import policy was based on filling injury-created vacuums but some ended up going home by Christmas. Lads like Jack Ferguson and Jack McKean have matured and will provide some of the experience with plenty opportunities for youngsters in a squad where really only Calum Harvey has moved on and that is for work reasons.
“To be brutally honest the club was in a bit of a mess off the field not so long ago with no second-team coaches, for example. The club needed a shake-up and sometimes it takes relegation to do that. Typical of the new approach is the nomination of a young vice-president in Keith Watters while the experienced Andrew Ker (ex-Scotland stand off) and Dave Harris will continue as team managers.”
There is also a strong family element to Watsonians with Marcus’s father, Paul, continuing as president while younger brother, Ben, has been elected club captain.
“Ben had a rough time last season when he ruptured an Achilles’ tendon and had a spell in plaster. It’s not certain he’ll be involved at Melrose on Saturday but he has been part of a training schedule that has been varied so as to avoid players thinking ‘here we go again, same stuff as last week’ and should be fit to face Gala. At 28 he is ready to take on responsibility and he has a real passion for Watsonians.”
As for the prospect of lining up alongside his brother at centre, that is unlikely but don’t rule out the prospect of Jason White pulling on the jersey.
“Jason will be resisting the call but I know he has an invite to a veterans’ tournament in Dubai later in the year and will surely need to get match-fit,” says Di Rollo, perhaps mischievously.