The future of Edinburgh Rugby goes on show on a global stage starting on Monday when Scotland’s under-20 squad begin their IRB Junior World Cup bid against South Africa.
A total of seven players attached to the Capital professional outfit have headed to host country New Zealand who are in the same pool as Scotland along with Samoa.
Four of the Edinburgh septet – Magnus Bradbury, Phil Cringle, Jamie Ritchie and Neil Irvine-Hess – are forwards, while the backs are represented by Damien Hoyland, Jamie Farndale, on his third venture to this event, and Chris Dean.
Without doubt Dean could do a shift up front as well having caught the eye in the back row where he led Edinburgh Academy to three Scottish schools cups either at under-15 or under-18 level.
However, a decision was made some time ago to move this 6ft 2in and 15st powerhouse to centre and he has scarcely looked back, marking his under-20 debut with a try from off the bench against England at Netherdale this season.
Dean has made the transition, too, while retaining pace that enabled him to earn sevens caps including last year’s World Cup tournament in Moscow, where he scored Scotland’s first try of the tournament.
“Moscow was a big break for me,” said the North Berwick-reared youngster who moved to Edinburgh Academy secondary school and became part of a talented all-round side that included fellow sevens cap Alex Glashan, Hibs footballer Alex Harris and Scotland under-19 cricket prospect, Zander Muir, amongst others.
He adds: “Playing at the sevens in Russia trampolined me into view and taught me that you are always in the spotlight. There are no hiding places on the sevens pitch.
“Since then I have adapted to playing in the backs, curbing any tendency to go into rucks.
“Playing on the wing occasionally for Edinburgh Accies has also broadened my outlook but I think it was in this season’s under-20 Six Nations that I sealed a deal with Edinburgh.”
Coach Sean Lineen singled out Dean for special mention at the squad announcement, dubbing him “a quality player” and earlier this week Simon Cross, a former Accies mentor now on Worcester Warriors’ coaching panel predicted that his one-time prodigy would contest the Scotland No 13 jersey with Glasgow’s Mark Bennett for years to come.
“Chris always stood out as an athlete” said Cross.
Strong words, but Dean, who signed a two year contract with Edinbugh a few days after his 20th birthday in March, is ready to take the challenge in his stride helped by experience of the New Zealand rugby culture as part of the sevens squad last year.
“Playing in Wellington was absolutely incredible and up there with playing in this year’s Glasgow sevens in front of a home crowd,” he added.
“If I am chosen to face the New Zealand hosts, that will be another career highlight.
“The draw doesn’t make things any more straightforward, but to play a New Zealand team in their own country will really help us discover where we are sitting in ranking terms.”
Stakes have been raised by the decision to award next year’s tournament to Italy, which means they will qualify automatically, therefore ensuring Scotland have to finish in the top 11 as opposed to top 12.
Scotland began preparations in October and coach Lineen says: “We’ve got a tough group, but it’s a hugely exciting opportunity – to play New Zealand in their back yard, and South Africa and Samoa too.
“We have to make sure we go out there as well prepared as we can be and just try as hard as we can – and surprise them.
“What an opportunity for them – travelling to the other side of the world, to a country that’s just steeped in rugby.
“For a number of these guys it will be the pinnacle of their rugby career, so they’ve got to grasp it. My job is to ensure they’ve got the most professional environment possible and that they also enjoy the experience.
“They’re there for the rugby, first and foremost, to train hard, but when there’s down time I’m keen that they take that in as well, to be able to switch on and switch off, get that balance right.”
Scotland under-20 squad: Magnus Bradbury (Boroughmuir/Edinburgh Rugby), Lewis Carmichael (Melrose), Ben Chalmers (Melrose), Gabriel Carroll (Loughborough University), Jack Cosgrove (Worcester Warriors), Andrew Cramond (Aberdeen Grammar), Philip Cringle (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Dean (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby ), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Hawks), Jamie Farndale (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby) Cameron Fenton (Strathallan School/Howe of Fife), Alex Glashan (Edinburgh Accies/Scotland 7s), Neil Herron (Glasgow Hawks/Scotland 7s), Damien Hoyland (Melrose/Edinburgh Rugby), Rory Hutchison (Northampton Saints), Blair Hutchinson (Loughborough University/Melrose), Neil Irvine-Hess (Edinburgh Rugby), Sam James (London Wasps), Gavin Lowe (Glasgow Hawks/Glasgow Warriors), James Malcolm (Ayr), Gavin Parker (Exeter University), Sam Pecqueur (Edinburgh Accies), D’arcy Rae (Ayr/Glasgow Warriors), Jamie Ritchie (Howe of Fife/Edinburgh Rugby), Tommy Spinks (London Scottish) (captain), Ben Vellacott (Hartpury/Gloucester), Glen Young (Newcastle Falcons), Ruairidh Young (Edinburgh Accies).
Pool Fixtures: South Africa (June 2), Samoa (June 6), New Zealand (June 10).