Players Delighted By Aberdeen Enthusiasm

Scotland rugby players have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown by Aberdeen's youngsters since their arrival in the Granite City. School children across Aberdeen and the shire were going Scotland mad as Scottish Rugby’s Community Thursday took their international heroes to their doorstep ahead of the city’s first competitive Scotland rugby fixture.

Organised by Scottish Rugby’s development and marketing teams and the region’s rugby clubs, the Grampian-wide rugby event was organised to repay Aberdeen’s rugby community for their support for the national team while giving words of encouragement to the areas talent of tomorrow.

Over 1200 school rugby players across the region from Huntly to Hazelhead were given the chance to welcome members of the Scotland squad to their primary school as part of the Grampian-wide event organised in conjunction with Scottish Rugby’s official training partner Baxters Soup.

In order to make the biggest impact while ensuring the widest reach, the Scotland squad were split into pairs and allocated one of the 11 school events organised on the day where the players joined in training sessions, signed autographs and answered the barrage of questions that came their way the minute they arrived.

Here’’ just a snap-shot of how the day went:

Kintore Primary Session - Chris Paterson and Ross Ford
Just north-west of Aberdeen in Kintore Chris Paterson and Ross Ford arrived at the primary school’s astro-turf pitch to find a coach load of primary school children lined up in groups and ready to be sent out on to the park. After a quick introduction the play got underway with the pair joining rugby drills which ranged from hands down the line to tunnel tig. Once the training session was over the pair bravely offered themselves to a Q and A with no punches pulled from the attending youngsters. After an array of photographs and autographs were taken and signed the kids said their good-byes as another coach arrived with a second load of children. The pair then repeated the drills, photos, autographs and shrewd questions before heading back to the team hotel three hours later.

Record cap holder and points scorer, Chris Paterson, said: "Growing the game and supporting youth development are key priorities for Scottish Rugby and as players we recognise our place in helping this cause.

“We’ve had a great reception since arriving in Aberdeen and Kintore Primary was certainly no different. We’ve had a great day here and hope the kids go away with a renewed hunger for the game."

Paterson’s fellow Community Thursday partner and Scotland internationalist, Ross Ford, agreed: “It’s is all about getting as many players out there and in front of as many youngsters as possible and I think we’ve achieved that, especially after seeing all the players all heading off in different directions to all corners of Aberdeen this morning.

“It’s been a fun day here for me and Chris; it’s great to think that this kind of event and this kind of encouragement is happening all over Aberdeen at the same time.”

Albyn School and Robert Gordon's College - Geoff Cross and Ally Dickinson
Scotland prop, Geoff Cross, said: “The event gives the children the opportunity to meet the players or role models that they might know from watching TV and helps to integrate the national and professional game with the community.

“We arrived in the school hall to find all of the kids sitting looking expectantly at the door, it was a good feeling which makes you want it go well for all concerned and ensure they all have a good time.

“We were certainly well received by the school - the kids were pleasant and we really enjoyed ourselves and encouraging the school’s rugby.”

Mill O'Forrest Primary School - Allan Jacobsen and Scott Gray
Scotland front row, Allan Jacobsen, said:  When we arrived they were all already playing games so I joined in and refereed a couple of games before the Q and A session began.

“I was told that in that area there is one of the biggest mini rugby sections in Scotland which is excellent for rugby in the north-east. The kids seemed to really enjoy it - I was quite surprised actually just how keen they were.

“They were all saying they were going to come to the game which is great because most of them don’t get to see many Scotland matches so the fact that the game is up here and that all the players were out and about all over Aberdeen offered a great chance for the kids to see the players.”

Kemnay Academy - Al Kellock and Matt Mustchin
Scotland lock, Matt Mustchin, said: “I was really impressed with how yesterday went and how much all of the kids really wanted to learn - some of the best students were the ones who had a reputation for causing a bit of trouble but they were all excellent and really attentive.

“The school kids were split into two groups which allowed us to do some skills work - two on ones, three on twos as well as doing some lineout work.

“They were all just really happy that we were there and that we were up here to play at Pittodrie.”

Westhill Academy - Dan Parks and Mark Robertson
Scotland A wing, Mark Robertson, said: “The day was really good. We had four classes, one of which was all-girls who were all pretty talented. The day was definitely a success because we don’t get to visit Aberdeen as much as areas in the central belt so it was great to give the kids the chance to meet the likes of Mike Blair and Dan Parks. They were so enthusiastic and happy for us to be there so hopefully that enthusiasm will result in more people coming out and playing rugby.”

Marlpool Special Needs School and Dyce Primary School - Simon Webster and Kelly Brown
Scotland wing, Simon Webster, said: “We went to Dyce Primary - which was a pretty big school with around 500 kids - followed by a trip to Marlpool Special Needs School where we met another 70. Marlpool worked really well because we went from class to class spending about 20 minutes in each to answer a host of questions on anything from making breaks to Mario Kart.

“I think they were really pleased to see us, the kids were really attentive and listened to every word we said. I think they realised that were trying to make the effort to get out and meet the Aberdeen community and they reciprocated with their attention and enthusiasm. The teachers were really great and really enthusiastic as well, even the groundsman came in to ask us a few questions.”

Gordon Schools, Huntly, Hugo Southwell and Dougie Hall
Scotland full-back, Hugo Southwell, said: “Yesterday was really good and the reception we got when we arrived was fantastic. It was really encouraging to see just how enthusiastic everyone was to see Scotland players come to their school.

“After we arrived we were greeted by all of the school children, we did some skills work and some passing drills before doing a question and answer session with about 80 kids. What stood out for me was that there were quite a lot of girls there in the sports hall and they were all pretty talented which is something you don’t see as often so that was very interesting to see how the girls had taken to the game, they were pretty skilful - especially as they had only been paying for about eight months.

Hazlehead Academy - Rory Lawson and Ally Hogg
Scotland flanker, Ally Hogg, said: “Yesterday was really good, it was great in fact.  The school had only recently started rugby so the questions were kicked-off by the school’s Rugby Champion before we had to answer a whole host from the rest of the pupils. It was quite funny with high school pupils from first to sixth year asking a range of questions ranging from 'what’s it like to play for Scotland’ to ‘what’s your favourite cheese.”

“It’s good to take the national game to north east. There’s been a lot of excitement generated by the team’s arrival and yesterday’s event, with players travelling all over Aberdeen, helps to repay that support.”

Bridge of Don Academy and Balmedie Primary - Ben Cairns and Nick de Luca
Arguably the greatest welcome of the day went to Ben Cairns and Nick de Luca who, after arriving to the sound of the Proclaimers’ “500 Miles” blaring out over the school tannoy, the pair received a deafening ovation by the youngsters. Ben and Nick then got straight into a prize-giving ceremony and a Q&A session before being treated to a haka - including a smearing of face paint - by two of the schools pupils as the pair departed.

Pete Young, Scottish Rugby’s regional development manager, added: “The kids in Aberdeen have been really switched-on to rugby, particularly after it was announced that the game was to be played at Pittodrie and while we have been creating additional events to cater for that increased participation we believe that Community Thursday is the best thank-you we can give to the clubs in the city and shire – it’s been a massive success, you only have to look on the kids faces to see that.”

In order to continue the community engagement, today’s captain’s run is open to the public with some schools looking to add to their support for the national team.

The Scottish Rugby board will met at Pittodrie on Friday and Aberdeen city council hosted a welcome reception the same evening.

Community Thursday Events:
Kintore Primary Session - Chris Paterson and Ross Ford
Mill O'Forrest Primary School - Allan Jacobsen and Scott Gray
Mackie Academy - Rory Lamont and Max Evans
Woodside Sports Complex - Mike Blair and Jim Hamilton
Kemnay Academy - Al Kellock and Matt Mustchin
Bridge of Don Academy - Ben Cairns and Nick de Luca
Balmedie Primary - Ben Cairns and Nick de Luca
Albyn School - Geoff Cross and Ally Dickinson
Robert Gordon's College - Geoff Cross and Ally Dickinson
Westhill Academy - Dan Parks and Mark Robertson
Dyce Primary School - Simon Webster and Kelly Brown
Marlpool Special Needs School - Simon Webster and Kelly Brown
Gordon Schools, Huntly - Hugo Southwell and Dougie Hall
Hazlehead Academy - Rory Lawson and Ally Hogg