Harrison takes dream debut in his stride
Most rugby players can only dream of playing in world famous grounds like the 74,500 capacity Principality Stadium in Cardiff, but West Linton teenager Patrick Harrison has already done that aged just 18 - writes Gary Heatly.
Harrison, who left Peebles High School after S5 in the summer of 2019, has been training with the club since last summer as a FOSROC Scottish Rugby Academy Stage Three player.
That has allowed him to integrate with the full squad - including internationalists like Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson - on a regular basis.
With a number of those international players away with Scotland during the recent Six Nations and other squad members injured, he and other young talents got the chance to move a step closer to the first team matchday squad.
And on Sunday 28 March, hooker Harrison made his professional debut when he came off the bench to replace Sam Kitchen in the 57th minute of Edinburgh’s Guinness PRO14 match away to the Dragons.
The Dragons normally play at the Rodney Parade ground in Newport, but as it was out of action, the match was switched to the world famous stadium situated in the Welsh capital.
“To make my debut anywhere for Edinburgh would have been special, but to do it in such an iconic stadium was amazing,” said Harrison, who turns 19 in June.
“I had been told earlier in the week that I would be on the bench and it was an exciting feeling, but it also brought a few nerves.
“When we arrived at the stadium on matchday, I tried to just take in the size of the place and then re-focus on my preparation and treat it like any other game.
“I got off to a bit of a wobbly start when I came on, but once I carried the ball once I settled into things and I just tried to do my best to help the team - it was still quite strange getting used to having Welsh internationals like Ross Moriarty running at you and having to tackle them though!
“Although we lost the game [24-17] we did pretty well in the second half and I thought I did okay, so it is now up to me to build on this and prove that I deserve more opportunities at this level going forward.”
Harrison became the fourth youngest debutant in Edinburgh’s history on that day, so how did he get into rugby in the first place?
“I started out playing mini rugby at West Linton when I was about six or seven,” Harrison, who lives on a farm near West Linton with his family, explains.
“I then moved on to Peebles Rugby Club and I played in the minis and then the youth section as well as also playing rugby at Peebles High School.
“When I was in S5 I stepped back a bit from rugby and took up boxing before returning to play rugby for Peebles Colts at the end of the 2018/19 season.
“I was used to playing at centre, but the team needed me to play hooker in one game against Hawick. Ewan Simpson, one of the Borders age-grade coaches, was watching that match and he then invited me along to play in a trial game and things went from there.
“During season 2019/20 I was part of the Scottish Rugby Academy as a Stage Two Academy player training out of Galashiels and I also got some valuable game time with Peebles first XV before lockdown came last March.
“To earn a Stage Three contract was a big boost to me and I am just trying to learn in the Edinburgh Rugby environment every day.”