Rugby: Aitchison hails new man Bates at Muir

Steve Bates, pictured during his time as a Borders coach. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Steve Bates, pictured during his time as a Borders coach. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Boroughmuir rugby coach Bruce Aitchison has hailed the contributions of former England scrum half Steve Bates as the Meggetland outfit prepare to bid for a place back in the Scottish Premiership.

Now director of sport at Fettes College after a pro rugby career in which he coached Newcastle Falcons and Border Reivers as well as Scotland A, Bates is satisfying an urge to return to the coal face of the senior game alongside Aitchison and the SRU’s regional academy manager Ben Fisher, a Boroughmuir stalwart.

Said Aitchison: “Steve has tremendous experience in both coaching and playing.

“He also comes with no pre-conceived notions, which fits well with our policy of giving a clean sheet to every player to stake his claim for a first-team place.

“Steve helped make Rob Andrew the player he was (at Wasps and Newcastle), which is a measure of his abilities and now he has a hankering to be involved in the club game when his school duties permit.

“Hopefully we have a good balance with Steve’s experience and expertise, my involvement with club teams over a number of years and Ben’s input based partly on what he learns in his job at Murrayfield.”

Bates’ knowledge actually goes even deeper, having nurtured the rugby skills of a young Jonny Wilkinson as a teacher before entering full-time sport.

Adding to a sense of optimism is the fact Andy Rose is due to return early next month after gaining his first Zimbabwe caps in the African Championship.

“For any player to represent his country is special and Andy was able to turn out in front of 30,000 crowds in Madagascar where the Championship was held.

“He is bound to be on a high. Andy was already an outstanding back row but his confidence will have been boosted even more.”

Aitchison has joined from Murrayfield Wanderers after consulting former Edinburgh coach Rob Moffat.

“I asked my wife, dad and Rob for advice when the opportunity came up because leaving Wanderers was a real wrench,” he says. “The unanimous view was that the challenge of trying to help Boroughmuir bounce back from relegation was too good.

“We’ve had 68 different 
players turning out at training and some of them will shortly head over to Sweden to compete in the annual Stockholm ten-a-side tournament.”

Relegation has come at a price with some recent Scotland under-20 caps switching allegiance.

“Alex Henderson and Keith Buchan are joining Heriot’s while Damien Hoyland has gone to Melrose and I understand why they have made moves I hope will turn into sabbaticals!” said Aitchison.

Others on the move include Jamie Swanson who has joined Stirling County with a view to British and Irish Cup involvement as a means of pushing pro aspirations, while Ally Warnock has moved to Australia.

However, Scotland under-20 prop Robby Wilson has remained while new recruits include Alex Cox (ex Murrayfield Wands), Murray Johnstone (ex-Currie) and the Stew/Mel trio of Craig Marshall, Joni Hare and Roddy Mackenzie.

Pitching up after a stint in USA rugby is Cal Davis (ex-Haddington) while Edinburgh development back row Magnus Bradbury has arrived from Merchiston Castle school with a bright future predicted.

Aitchison adds: “There is an opening at stand-off that Craig Marshall, David Reekie and Graeme Blackhall will all be looking to fill.

“Further out, Stevie Wilson is really flying in training and Jordan Webster, a PE teacher, seems to benefit from somebody else setting the agenda.

“Among the forwards Ian Moody will be back from injury and Will Kay is a second row of real promise who can come into his own this season.”

’Muir start their build-up to a season of National League rugby on August 6 against Falkirk at a venue still to be determined before visiting Tynedale (August 10) and entertaining Gala in a friendly on August 17.