With Royal High Rugby Club in Edinburgh the latest amateur side warning they will have to fold due to a lack of playing numbers - Walkerburn are in the same boat - the time is now for the Scottish Rugby Union to act on the key aspect of the report they commissioned to try and revitalise the game north for the border.

They asked sports consultants Oakwell to set out a ten-year plan for the future of Scottish Rugby that the company sent to Murrayfield earlier this year.

The vast majority of its recommendations have been acted upon by the powers that be.

The only main one yet to be implemented is the one the fans and those involved at grassroots level want introduced more than any other. 

That recommendation is that a limit is set on the number of non-Scottish qualified players signed by Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors. 

For far too long too many journeymen from overseas have been brought in by the two pro clubs to the detriment of young Scottish talent. 

READ MORE: Former Edinburgh boss Richard Cockerill lays into Scottish Rugby

Many promising young Scottish players have quit the game completely because they became disillusioned with the lack of opportunities open to them.

The blocking of homegrown players has been one of the hottest topics in Scottish Rugby for years and been kicked down the road for long enough. Just why it has taken a report from a sports consultancy to point out the obvious to the top brass at Murrayfield is beyond me.

You may ask how the demise of amateur rugby clubs relates to the number of non-Scottish qualified players - and dare I say it the amount of players only here because of a Scottish granny  - in the pro teams?  

To start with amateur rugby clubs need to be saved. Can you imagine the disastrous knock-on effects of lots of them folding.

No social rugby for many, no place to start for young players. No youth sections or minis. Where would the next Finn Russell or Evie Gallagher come from?

Evie Gallagher started her rugby journey with Stirling CountyEvie Gallagher started her rugby journey with Stirling County (Image: SNS)

Watching non-Scottish qualified male players being parachuted in to Edinburgh and Glasgow is one example of how amateur ones and coaches have become disillusioned. Coaches think why bother remaining involved when any hard work they do to bring on players will amount, in the most part, to nothing.

I have spoken to many committee men who tell me some young players who have come through their youth sections feel there is no point chasing their rugby dream as they know foreign players with no Scottish connection or a very slight one will be brought in ahead of them.

Others who are club stalwarts, organised the fixtures or arranged the catering for years, can’t be bothered continuing because they feel their clubs aren’t getting enough help from the SRU. These same people have told me of other teams being kicked out of various Scottish leagues because they couldn’t fulfil fixtures due to a lack of players.

On top of all that young Scottish rugby players need role models they can relate to.

There is no better example than Finn Russell who came through the ranks at Falkirk and Stirling County before going on to represent Scotland and the British and Irish Lions.

Scotland co-captain Finn RussellScotland co-captain Finn Russell (Image: SNS)

He is easier to relate to than someone from South Africa, New Zealand or Australia who spent their formative years outside Scotland.

Just maybe, limiting the number of non-Scottish qualified players at the two pro clubs will give hope to those at amateur level that they can make it to the top because there is more space there and they will keep playing.

READ MORE: Russell proud of Bath performance despite Premiership final loss

Watching homegrown talent they coached get a fair crack of the whip could also make those coaches who give up their time voluntarily every Saturday and two evenings a week feel they are part of something special and will encourage them to remain in the game.

You need to retain a strong amateur set-up throughout Scotland - especially with the Super Series now over - and with established clubs like Royal High in danger of folding alarm bells should be ringing within the SRU.

Royal High RFC, who finished bottom of East League Division One, was formed in 1868 and was one of the founding members of the Scottish Rugby Union in 1873. Their former players include Pringle Fisher who won 25 Scotland caps between 1963 and 1968. 

The club plays in the Barnton area of Edinburgh in the grounds of Royal High School - one of the leading state schools that has produced Edinburgh players Ben Cairns, Alan MacDonald and Charlie Shiel among many others through the years.

Royal High RFC issued a statement suggesting they may not be able to compete next seasonRoyal High RFC issued a statement suggesting they may not be able to compete next season (Image: Royal High Rugby Club)

If an amateur rugby club with such a proud tradition still can’t find players in Scotland’s capital city then that is a warning to all other clubs throughout the country that they could be next.

The Oakwell report recommendation on overseas limits won’t stop players such as new Edinburgh signing for next season, Australian born centre Mosese Tuipolutu, being brought in as he has a Scottish granny.

READ MORE: Edinburgh confirm signing of Mosese Tuipulotu, brother of Sione

It could stop though Edinburgh head coach Sean Everitt and Franco Smith of Glasgow Warriors -both South African coaches- taking a punt on non-Scottish qualified players rather than looking within the national pathway system for their new signings.

Some overseas players with no Scottish connections such as the three South Africans - Duhan van der Merwe, Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel - have been successes with Edinburgh and Scotland. They all qualified through residency and went on to represent their adopted country.

READ MORE: Why departing duo rank among Edinburgh's best-ever signings

There have also been failures regarding players who qualified for Scotland through residency with South African Jaco van der Walt qualifying that way when he played for Edinburgh but after picking up only two caps back in 2021 he was never selected again.

Jaco van der Walt won two Scotland caps after qualifying on residency groundsJaco van der Walt won two Scotland caps after qualifying on residency grounds (Image: SNS)

There have been a number of players from abroad in recent years who left without making much of an impression. They include Edinburgh’s South African born full-back Henry Immelmann and Argentine fly-half Domingo Miotti who played for Glasgow Warriors.

Until a new performance director to replace Jim Mallinder is appointed the fine details of the proposal to limit non-Scotland-qualified players cannot be formalised, but those inside Murrayfield can’t sit on their hands until then. 

They should be drawing up an internal report to work out how many non-Scottish qualified players joining Edinburgh or Glasgow Warriors should be allowed. Of that number should there be a strict limit on the number of non-Scots in any matchday squad? There are similar restrictions in place in Irish Rugby.

Oakwell believe if their proposals are implemented fully they will bring success and help Scotland consistently compete against the top teams in the world. Three of their four recommendations have been or are in the process of being dealt with.

They are the re-introduction of Edinburgh 'A' and Glasgow Warriors 'A' teams to provide more professional opportunities for up-and-coming players to gain exposure to top-level rugby.

There will also be increased investment in the Scottish Rugby academy structure to expand the number and age range of players within them. Oakwell also backed disbanding the Super Series tournament that ended this weekend and the reintroduction of the teams into the domestic leagues.

Ayrshire Bulls won the last-ever Super Series Sprint titleAyrshire Bulls won the last-ever Super Series Sprint title (Image: George McMillan)

Until the limit on the number on non-Scottish qualified players in the pro ranks is implemented young Scots will continue to be frustrated at the lack of opportunities.

There will also be fewer players and coaches at amateur level as they will be thinking what is the point staying in the game?


Scotland can’t afford for more amateur clubs like Royal High and Walkerburn to go to the wall so let’s hope better times -and changes- are just round the corner.