Heriot’s forwards coach Steve Lawrie has led calls for second row Murray Douglas to be offered terms by the Edinburgh pro rugby team.
Scotland international hooker Lawrie, who was forced to retire due to injury shortly after earning his cap against Samoa on tour last summer and has slipped seamlessly into coaching, made his remarks after Douglas excelled in helping Heriot’s win the Scottish Cup for the third time at the weekend with a 31-10 win over Glasgow Hawks.
Lawrie said: “I see potential in some of our players to make an impact as pros.
“In fact, I will be disappointed if a guy like Murray Douglas does not get looked at as a second row or No 6 (blindside flanker). Murray works hard, has great attitude and is 24 years old. Some of his (ball) carrying made him an absolute boss.”
The vote of confidence for Douglas comes at a time when the player himself has made it clear he is desperate to go up a level in rugby when his law apprenticeship is completed this summer and has hinted at a possible move to Australia.
In his favour is the fact that Edinburgh are about to ship out second rows Sean Cox (to London Irish) and Izak van der Westhuizen, who is returning to South Africa with Perry Parker on loan at Ospreys and not guaranteed to return.
However, there has been speculation linking Edinburgh with a move for Anton Bresler, a 26-year-old Namibian currently with Durban-based Natal Sharks and recovering from shoulder surgery.
However, the need to put faith in emerging Scottish talent at the same time as looking abroad is emphasised by Heriot’s head coach Phil Smith.
“Murray Douglas was absolutely phenomenal (in the cup win),” said Smith, a former Edinburgh youth development and caretaker coach. “It’s not just Heriot’s but Scottish Rugby that is going to lose him. He was brilliant (against Hawks). He could take the step up easily”
Lawrie believes other Heriot’s forwards should be in the frame for a contract. He said: “Jason Hill had a solid game and Mike Maltman’s turnovers played a big part in the win.”
Maltman came off the bench because, as a member of the Scotland sevens squad, he hadn’t been available all season.
“We wanted to reward guys who had been able to play for us all the time and being able to include [pros] Kevin Bryce and George Turner then rotate them [at hooker] was a luxury because as second-year pros they won’t be available next year.”
What pleased Lawrie most about the latest Heriot’s cup success was the way they overcame a dominant Hawks scrum just as a 13-0 lead was reduced to 13-10.
“Big guys like Murray and Mike turn up for big games But I am so proud of the entire pack,” he added. “We speak a lot about problem-solving and how to do it on the pitch because there is no point in asking the questions afterwards.
“Okay, they upset us in a couple of scrums, but the problems occurred generally in the first 15 minutes of the second half after an even first period. We made a couple of changes by bringing on Craig Owenson and Gavin Cameron at prop and they took a player off in the front row [Finlay Gillies]. Sometimes combinations work well and our new guys came through.”
Lawrie, 30, is perhaps the ultimate example of bowing out at the top as his last game before succumbing to back trouble was his cap debut.
The qualified PE teacher insists he is only looking to the future and further involvement in coaching.
“I am on to the next challenge,” he said. “I told the guys we are here to win things and that is why I want to coach at Premier Division One. Things do move on and you have got to focus your efforts elsewhere. The satisfaction for me now comes from seeing the team to a man do themselves justice, as they did in beating Hawks.”
The challenge for Heriot’s will be a return to the British & Irish Cup and Phil Smith believes they can build on the latest cup triumph. “It is a launchpad and we are hoping we keep everybody and add a couple of players,” he said. “We are hoping we are building something really, really good and we are doing it under the radar. We don’t shout about it.”