Taylor and McKay sign on for a great day for Scottish student rugby

The growing status of one of the biggest dates in the student sport calendar in Scotland was confirmed at BT Murrayfield today.

Details of the 2017 men’s and women’s Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Varsity matches between the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews – which will be played on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield on Saturday 23 September – were announced, at the same time as tickets were released for sale.

Tickets cost £5 for students and under-18s and £10 for adults.  They can be bought online at http://www.scottishrugby.org/how-buy-tickets or in person from the Scottish Rugby Ticket Centre at BT Murrayfield.

RBS is continuing its sponsorship of the event in a new two-year agreement, clear indication of how the matches, to be played for the third successive year on the international pitch, are acting as standard bearers for student rugby in Scotland.

Further confirmation of that comes as Edinburgh University revealed that the 66-times-capped Scotland back-row forward and British Lion, Simon Taylor, was joining their coaching team, while St Andrews announced that erstwhile Scotland 7s cap and Scotland Club International forward, Rory McKay, was enlisting with their coaches.

Taylor, a law graduate from Edinburgh University who coached in the BT Premiership at Watsonians last season, will work alongside head coach David Adamson. Taylor said: “The profile of university rugby is very much on the rise and students have a big contribution to make to the game in Scotland.

There’s always been strong competition between Edinburgh and St Andrews and I look forward to working with the coaching team and players for what I am sure will be a special occasion.”

Adamson added: “Having someone of Simon’s international standing within the game joining our coaching team is symptomatic of the level of support and quality of programmes available to the best student rugby players at both Edinburgh and St Andrews.

Our Team Performance Programme is among the best in Scotland, and so having Simon to further enhance this with the vast knowledge and experiences he's gained over the years, will be invaluable to our young players moving into the season ahead. Plus, being an alumnus of Edinburgh, I'm sure it will add extra significance to his own involvement."

St Andrews have also added to their coaching staff for the coming season, with former professional, McKay (Glasgow Caledonians and Bedford Blues), joining their Performance Rugby Programme.

McKay said: “There is a heightened profile to student rugby and the Scottish Varsity Match is the apex of the student game in Scotland.

Both St Andrews and Edinburgh are setting the benchmark with their performance rugby programmes and I actively sought out to join the coaching team at St Andrews to be part of that environment.

“I cannot wait for the game and helping the team to prepare to play at BT Murrayfield in front of a huge crowd.”

Director of Rugby at St Andrews, David Ross, who has also spent the last few months developing his coaching expertise with trips to New Zealand – to be part of the Canterbury Crusaders’ High Performance Unit – and to South Africa to spend time with Western Province, The Stormers and the South African national team, said: “My trips to the southern hemisphere allowed me to gauge where our Varsity match stands in world student rugby and there is no doubt that it is right up there among the very best.

No other fixture can match our history in the game and it’s so special for us to be the world’s oldest varsity match.

“But this is about so much more than tradition.  Student rugby in Scotland features some great athletes playing a truly exciting brand of the game and for anyone who has not seen a student game, I would encourage you to come along as the quality and desire to play in an expressive manner is of the highest order.”

The long-standing rivalry between Scotland’s two oldest universities, has seen crowds of more than 10,000 attend the 2015 and 2016 matches.

St Andrews men have claimed the honours for the last four years – with the 2013 and 2014 games played in London – whereas the Edinburgh women have won all their Varsity fixtures.

Claire Cruikshank, Edinburgh’s Head of Performance Rugby (Ladies) said: “We’re excited to kick-off another year of Scottish Varsity at 5pm on Saturday 23 September.

It’s always a great event with an electric atmosphere – I know our women’s team are relishing the chance to play again in one of the biggest events in the calendar.”

The men’s match kicks-off at 6.15pm.

Scottish Rugby President, Rob Flockhart, an Edinburgh University graduate and former Blue, said: “Student rugby is vital in Scotland as we seek to encourage participation in the game.

When players leave school, their rugby journey can continue through the fun, friendships and rivalry of university and college sport. Student sport, in the environment that exists at Edinburgh and St Andrews, can also be used as a springboard to the elite levels of the game.

“Scottish Rugby is pleased to host the 2017 Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Varsity matches.  I also note that we are supporting the Glasgow Varsity match, between Glasgow University and Strathclyde University on Friday 22 September, the eve of the Scottish Varsity match, making the weekend a real celebration of student rugby in Scotland.”

The BT Murrayfield event is also supported by Campus Living Villages, Player Layer and Stagecoach.

More information and all the latest news on the matches can be found on Facebook – @scottishvarsity; and Twitter – @ScottishVarsity.