The curtain may have fallen on Scott Steele’s professional rugby career, but he is a man who would much rather focus on the positives of 13 years in the elite game than the way it has ended.

Steele, a Scotland international, was an eye-catching signing for Edinburgh when it was announced he would move from Harlequins last summer.  

But a long-term hip injury, on which Steele has had three operations (more on those later) prevented Steele from ever taking to the field for the capital club. They are the reason why he decided last month to call time on his career at the age of 30.  

READ MORE: Scotland scrum-half announces retirement after injury battle

But the problem with his troublesome left hip – not ideal for a left-footed scrum-half – first arose almost a decade ago.  

Steele explained: “Genetically my hips aren’t the right shape – the ball isn’t a perfect sphere so when it moves round it catches bone on bone. 

“I had the first operation when I was 21 and playing at London Irish. They shaved down the bone and it was really successful and I came back about three months later and felt better than ever.  

“Then at Harlequins when I was about 28, my hip was getting jacked up and I had problems with sciatica.  

“I’d play two games then be out for ages. It got to the stage I couldn’t extend my leg with the pain, so I could run around but as soon as it got to a kick, the nerve would yank and it was horrible.  

“I had another hip scope to shave the bone into a normal shape."

Scott Steele helped Harlequins win the Premiership in 2021Scott Steele helped Harlequins win the Premiership in 2021 (Image: Getty)

But Steele, whose rugby journey began at Dumfries Saints and also saw him represent Scotland at age-grade level, wasn’t just dealing with his hip issues.  

He added: “A couple of weeks after I’d had the second operation on my hip, I saw a back specialist and he said I’d been dealing with a bulging disc in my back for over a year.  

“I had a lumbar discectomy where they shave a part of the disc so it doesn’t push into the nerve. 

“That wound got infected so they had to go in again. I had that fixed and it worked really well. I played a few more games after that, felt really good, then I came up to Edinburgh." 

When Steele agreed to a move north of the border – something he’d had on his rugby bucket list having played all of his professional career down south – Mike Blair, the former Scotland and Lions scrum-half, was Edinburgh’s head coach. 

Blair left and was replaced by Sean Everitt, so when Steele was given an opportunity to play in a pre-season friendly against Connacht he went all-out to impress.  

“I got 40 minutes, then in training the next few days I was really trying to go all-out to provde a point and show I should be involved the following week,” Steele said.

Scott Steele's only appearance for Edinburgh came in a pre-season friendlyScott Steele's only appearance for Edinburgh came in a pre-season friendly (Image: SNS)  

“But my body was in bits. I went and got a scan and I knew then it wasn’t going to be good because I was struggling a lot.  

"The results came back and I knew then it wasn’t good.” 

Steele went back under the surgeon’s knife once more, but rather than going through a third hip scope, he had a hip resurfacing operation.  

That is the same procedure tennis legend Andy Murray underwent to prolong his career.  

Steele explained: "They go in and shave the ball down completely and put it on a metal cap. They put a metal cap in the socket as well so it’s metal on metal. It means I’ve got a metal hip now.  

“It’s the one before getting a hip replacement which I know I’ll need at some stage." 

Steele revealed around this time his mindset changed and it was then he decided to call time on his professional career.  

“Previously I’d been of the mindset ‘let’s go, next job’ but when I was sitting waiting to get this operation I thought ‘is this really worth it if I can’t string four or five games together without worrying about another injury?’.” 

A period of rehab has followed, but during the course of our conversation the 30-year-old shares more than once he’s managed to run 5k. It is far cry from what he’d have covered in a week on the training pitch, and during a match, but nevertheless, Steele is keen to remain positive.  

He admitted there were difficult periods during the “lonely” rehabilitation, and was frustrated he didn’t get the chance to wear Edinburgh’s colours in a competitive match.  

He said: "It was difficult not being able to show what you’ve got, especially as I’d signed when Mike Blair was head coach, but turning up and having a new head coach it was difficult not being able to justify why I was signed." 

Steele left Edinburgh alongside club legends WP Nel and Bill MataSteele left Edinburgh alongside club legends WP Nel and Bill Mata (Image: SNS)

It meant that when the club’s leaving cohort – including legends WP Nel and Bill Mata – received their farewell gifts, Steele was the only player not to have his Edinburgh Rugby player number displayed beside his name,  

Rather than get too hung up about it, Steele insisted: “At the end of the season when I was getting my leavers gift without my cap number that was tough, but that is the harsh reality of sport. Not a lot of people get the fairytale ending." 

That positive attitude shines through again when Steele talked about his time at Edinburgh more generally.  

He said: “I got a lot of stick for attending more social gatherings than actually playing games, but it was all tongue in cheek. I’ve made a lot of friends here.” 

And reflecting on his decision to call time on his career, he added: “It was not the ideal way to end but I had 13 years of professional rugby and even though there were ups and downs, 12 of them were good years." 

The highlight of Steele’s career came in the 2020/21 SIx Nations when, despite having played only a handful of games for Harlequins, he was parachuted into the Scotland squad.  

“At the age of 27 I thought that opportunity had passed me by”, he admitted.  

His Test debut came in October 2020, when Scotland triumphed over Wales in a rearranged Six Nations match. It was the first Scottish win on Welsh soil for nearly 20 years, but because of the pandemic, was played without a crowd.  

Then in the 2021 championship, Steele helped Scotland to a first win at Twickenham in 38 years and signed off his Test career with a try at Murrayfield in a thumping of Italy.  

In between those two matches came the only defeat of his international career – at home to Ireland in a match where Steele was used as an auxiliary back-row amid an injury crisis.  

“To get capped in four Six Nations games – that four or five months was by far the best period of my career. 

“In the biggest games of my career by far, the first one was on the wing [against Wales in Llanelli] going ‘right, this isn’t exactly how I saw this going’; then I was in the back-row [against Ireland]. 

“Out of four caps, it is quite something to say I am an international back-row, wing and scrum-half. And we won three of the four games! It was quite eventful.” 

Steele had been let go by London Irish during the early days of the pandemic, and admitted it was a stressful time before he was snapped up by Quins.  

Scott Steele made his Premiership breakthrough with London Irish but was let go by the club during the pandemicScott Steele made his Premiership breakthrough with London Irish but was let go by the club during the pandemic (Image: Getty Images)

The team struggled in the first few months of his time there, with coach Paul Gustard sacked at the beginning of 2021.  

Under the coaching team of Billy Millard, Jerry Flannery, Adam Jones and Nick Evans, Quins turned things round in dramatic fashion and21 went on to win the Premiership.  

While injury – not his hip this time, but a hernia – kept Steele from playing in the showpiece matches, he said that ranked highly among his rugby achievements.   

“We were miles away at Christmas,” Steele reflected.  

“Paul Gustard got moved on and the way we turned it around was great. The semi-final [a 43-36 win at Bristol after extra-time] and the final are some of the best rugby matches I’ve watched.  

“Being at Quins and the celebrations after that were amazing.” 

As he reflected on his favourite rugby memories, Steele admitted he is content with what lies in store moving forward.  

There were just a couple of days for reflecting too with his new job with Glasgow-based Athlete Origin started today (Monday).  

Steele explained more about the firm, and how the opportunity arose.  

"They help ex-athletes transition into tech sales jobs. I will be helping guys in my position who want to get into business and sales.  

“I’d been speaking to the guys for about the last six months and used the time while I was waiting for the hip resurfacing to get this job sorted out because I didn’t have much else to do. 

"It is good for me to know I’ve got a plan for what I’m doing next. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into that.” 

Steele said his parents Gail and John, himself a well-known referee and player, were the biggest influences in his career.  

Steele added: “My family have been a huge support throughout my career and it was great for me that when I did do well, and when I represented Scotland, I managed to pay them back and make them proud. 

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"It was really beneficial for me that my dad knows what he’s talking about.  

“You know when you’ve had a bad game so they were always really good at reading a situation.” 

And before the scrum-half hangs his boots up for good, he hopes the Steele family can share in an afternoon at Park Farm.  

"Both my brothers, Rory and Jack, still play. I really want to try and play at least one game for Dumfries Saints. I moved to Merchiston for my last year of school having played all the age-groups [at Dumfries] so I didn’t get a chance to represent the 1st XV.  

“That is something I’d love to do and I would really like to get my brothers – and I’ve got cousins who also play – on the pitch together.  

“The club has a special place in my heart and it would be a nice way to finish.”