Scottish rugby is going back to the future by signing players they previously rejected to try and fill the gaps in their professional sides. It is not a good look and shows the lack of fresh talent coming through the ranks.

Such is the difficulty that Glasgow Warriors find themselves in at hooker - Fraser Brown has retired, George Turner is being linked with a move to Japan-they have signed former Scotland international Grant Stewart from Ayrshire Bulls

He was deemed surplus to requirements at Scotstoun two years ago and allowed to join Connacht on a six-month contract before returning to Scotland to play semi-pro rugby. He now finds himself being handed a two-year deal back at his former club. 

Edinburgh let Magnus Bradbury leave for Bristol Bears back in 2022 and although he played consistently well and received rave reviews in the English Premiership he fell off the radar when it came to Scotland selection. 

READ MORE: Magnus Bradbury signs up for Edinburgh return 

He wasn’t picked for the 2023 World Cup and although part of Scotland’s 2024 Six Nations training squad didn’t play in the tournament.

With Bill Mata leaving the capital club, ironically to take Bradbury’s place at number eight at Bristol, he has been given a two-year deal to return to Edinburgh.

Stewart and Bradbury are decent players but if they were so good why were both allowed to leave Scottish rugby in the first place? There is a danger with Stewart being 29 and Bradbury aged 28 their best years are behind them. 

Some may feel I am being unduly harsh on Bradbury but it is hard to see how the man from Oban- who admittedly was one of Bristol’s best players in their win over Leicester Tigers at the weekend - can ever match his try-scoring performance in the famous 38-38 draw against England at Twickenham in the 2019 Six Nations when he was my unsung hero of the match.

There are not many, if any, players ready to make the leap along the Scottish Rugby pathway to challenge them for playing contracts at Edinburgh and Glasgow, but on the positive side I can confirm the enthusiasm for grassroots rugby is still there after attending the amateur finals day at Murrayfield on Saturday.  

Scotland Rugby News: Hawick lifted the Scottish Cup at Silver SaturdayHawick lifted the Scottish Cup at Silver Saturday (Image: SNS)

From the first game to the last - the Scottish Cup men’s final when Hawick beat Edinburgh Accies was a thrilling encounter - there was superb support from the terraces.

The standard of play in the men’s final was decent so there is a bit of hope for the future despite a statistic in Scottish Rugby’s annual report for 2022/2023 that wasn’t widely reported at the time it came out being a cause for concern in relation to player numbers.

In that season - the one before this- there were 15,488 adult amateur players registered with Scottish Rugby which was up from 11,028 in the 2018/2019 season, the last applicable comparison before Covid hit, which on the face of it sounds good. 

But a lot of those registered simply never had any intention of playing and wanted to pay money into the club to keep it going and also to allow them to apply for Six Nations tickets.

If you delve deeper into the Scottish Rugby annual report you find that out of the 15,488 registered adult male players, only 8,670 ticked the box saying they actually participated in playing the amateur game that season.

Scotland Rugby News: Cumnock lifted the national shield after beating Moray in the final at Hive StadiumCumnock lifted the national shield after beating Moray in the final at Hive Stadium (Image: Scottish Rugby/SNS)

That is down - albeit slightly - from the 8,756 registered amateur players who took part in the game during the 2018/2019 season. That means there were fewer male amateur players playing rugby last season than there was five years ago before Covid hit.

The women’s figures in the same annual report are much more positive. In 2018/2019 there were 1,658 registered women players with 1,093 participating in matches. In 2022/2023 there were 3,118 women players registered with 1,858 taking part.

Sadly, Scotland Women losing to Ireland in the Six Nations match in Belfast and missing out on securing a place at the World Cup in England next year will have done nothing to inspire the next generation of young women to take up the game.

For those who do make it in the professional ranks of the Scottish men’s game the financial rewards at the top level remain high.

The same Scottish Rugby annual report reveals that out of 179 professional coaches and players on the Murrayfield payroll, 25 of them earned over £200,000.

Included in that wage bracket will be Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and Franco Smith at Glasgow Warriors. Edinburgh head coach Sean Everitt only arrived last summer.

Thirty-six earn between £100,000 and £200,000, eleven are paid between £75,000 and £100,000, with 16 earning between £50,000 and £75,000. There are 93 who earn under £50,000.

There are no official figures listed as to how much the women players earn individually but it is nowhere near the men’s pay and they were only given professional contracts under two years ago.

Good luck to Grant Stewart and Magnus Bradbury at Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively and I hope they do well and make me eat my words but let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture.

Scottish rugby needs more homegrown players to challenge established ones like the pair of them for contracts.