Scotland rugby stars praise Linlithgow youngsters

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Scotland rugby internationalist John Hardie and former Scotland great Chris Paterson visited Linlithgow Academy for a special presentation.

The duo handed over the trophy awarded to the school for winning the Scottish Rugby Union’s Schools’ Purple Conference.

The competition recognises the combined performance of all five school age grade teams - S1, S2, S3, Under 16 and Under 18 - in a league with other schools from across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Linlithgow Academy is a School of Rugby in a partnership involving Linlithgow Rugby Club, West Lothian Council and Scottish Rugby.

The Academy teams are run with the support of the club and the many volunteer coaches led by Schools Co-ordinator Kenny Ewing.

The volunteers are backed up by Rugby Development Officers Dougie Thomson and Andy Whitelaw and Modern Apprentice Kyle Dunlop.

John Hardie, who has visited both the school and Linlithgow Rugby Club over the last year, said : “One thing that I noticed when I came here a couple of months ago is that it is a really passionate group of young lads and ladies. They have done really well.”

Teams from across 156 state schools participated in this season’s conference structure, 35 more than last year’s total of 121.

A total of 26 independent schools and 93 clubs were also involved in the second year of the programme alongside state school structures.

Players have participated in over 2,000 fixtures, noting a significant increase from last season (1,800), which saw the programme, introduced nationwide for the first time with match fulfilment rates having grown from 71 per cent to 77 per cent.

Keith Russell, Scottish Rugby’s Director of Domestic Rugby, said: “Our aim going forward was to increase fixture fulfilment across the country, providing young players with more games than ever before, and we have achieved our goal.

There were some great matches played across both school and club conferences, with player numbers signaling a surge in interest in the sport, particularly in state schools.”

Colin Thomson, Scottish Rugby’s Head of Schools & Youth, said: “The conference structure has once again proved a real success within schools and clubs across Scotland.

It has provided both schools and clubs with the opportunity to grow their involvement across all age levels and we have seen an increase in rugby played throughout state schools.”

The structure has provided more young players with regular, appropriate matches and has equipped them with the relevant skills and attributes to ensure they stay in the game.”