Gary Heatly catches up with Merchiston schoolboy Chris Bell, who made his 1st XV debut against Melrose last weekend
Chris Bell became the latest teenager to progress into the first XV ranks at the weekend with a debut off the bench against Melrose in the Scottish Cup.
The stand-off entered the fray midway through the second half and although the side lost 25-8 at The Greenyards in the quarter-final tie, let us hope it was the first time of many that we will see the 18-year-old at this level.
And given that his family are from the Borders, his grandpa is one of the match day announcers for Melrose, and he used to go to school a stone’s throw from the famous Greenyards ground at St Mary’s School, it was still a memorable day for him and his family.
Bell first played rugby when he was growing up at the Gala Mini Maroons. Like most youngsters in the Borders, he fell in love with the sport straight away and played for the club while also playing for St Mary’s School.
“I then moved up to Edinburgh to finish my schooling in late 2014 and I played school rugby for Merchiston Castle,” he explained.
“That was really great and I have learnt a lot from the coaches there over the years like Rob Moffat, Dave Blair and Roddy Deans and the other players. This year I am in my final year at school, but was too old to play in the under-18 team.
“When they won the Scottish Schools Cup final before Christmas I helped out from the sidelines as much as I could and this season I have really enjoyed playing senior rugby with Watsonians.
“There is a good link-up between the school and the club so I headed down to the end of pre-season training after I had been on the school rugby tour to South Africa and have been playing most of the year in the second XV.
“That has been great for me as a young player because I have learnt a lot about game management and the physicality of senior rugby while we are quite a young team and we push each other on with a few of the guys making it up to the first XV.”
Having seen players like Harry Fisher and Corann Henderson make the jump into the top team set-up previously, Bell was delighted to get a spot on the bench for the Cup tie at Melrose.
And having played previously for the Borders under-16s, Edinburgh under-18s and 19s and, most recently, been involved for Scotland under-19s against Australia Schools off the bench at the Oriam, there could be an exciting future ahead for Bell.
“I have had a taste of senior rugby now and I just want to keep learning and progressing if I can,” he concluded.
Article by Gary Heatly (GH Media)
Photographs from: Graham Gaw