The North Berwick Connection

The North Berwick Connection

Resident Twitter Superfan @TheBurghWatch looks at the special connection between Edinburgh Rugby and North Berwick, that has seen the coastal town produce a plethora of capital stars…

What do Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland 7s, Scotland Woman, Scotland Rugby League and the Bolivian national team all have in common?

Apart from playing with an oval ball, the short answer is simple: North Berwick.

The East Lothian seaside town is home to only 6500 people yet can claim players for all these teams that started their rugby life in the town.

Edinburgh Rugby have benefited greatly from this pipeline of talent. Current established squad members Chris Dean and Lewis Carmichael both came through the ranks at North Berwick, while up-and-coming back-row star Rory Darge also hails from the seaside town.

Roan Frostwick and Ben Muncaster both joined the club’s academy system in recent weeks, while Tom Brown and Callum Hunter-Hill – who joined Scotland 7s and Saracens respectively - are also products of North Berwick RFC.

There are many different routes into a professional contract with Edinburgh Rugby but for all of the players mentioned above, it has started with North Berwick RFC Minis.

Head of Rugby at North Berwick RFC, Keith Hogg, played down these achievements and insisted that they were no different from many other rugby clubs and were merely trying to instil a joy of playing within the right environment.

Despite those protestations, it’s clear to see that there is a sense of pride in the success achieved by these players.

It’s a pride that comes from more than an individual achievement, but their strong connection to the club, rather than their playing ability.

Only recently, North Berwick RFC were able to applaud Rory Darge’s new Edinburgh deal as the former Scotland U20 captain became the latest East Lothian star to put pen-to-paper in the capital.

Known simply in the town as ‘Darge’, the back-row only recently spoke up about his time playing for the East Lothian club, saying: “it was just fun and just a really good environment.”

There is no division between school rugby and club rugby in North Berwick, it’s all about North Berwick Rugby. In fact, Roan Frostwick and Rory Darge hail from Aberlady and Gullane respectively, but despite having moved on in their professional rugby careers, they both still consider their rugby home to be North Berwick.

Lewis Carmichael’s route to Edinburgh was all North Berwick having played all the way through to under-18 level within the town.

Chris Dean and Tom Brown made the move to Heriot’s and Edinburgh Academy to finish their schoolboy rugby careers, but like others, they were always keen to return to play for the town in North Berwick 10’s at the end of the regular season.

Ben Muncaster’s route also started with North Berwick minis before he earned a scholarship to Rugby School which eventually led to a place in Leicester Tigers Academy before Edinburgh came calling this summer.

It was those early years that left an impression, and he said recently of his North Berwick origins: “I started playing when I was 4 or 5. I joined my local rugby club and loved every minute of it.”

Sometimes a players’ link to their local club can get lost as they progress up the ladder of professional rugby, and perhaps a mention of ‘product of’ is not enough in ever-growing player profiles.

That doesn’t even scratch the surface of their development and where they picked up a rugby ball for the first time. Those are important steps for rugby in the same way that learning your ABC’s are for learning to read.

As they say in the building trade: If the foundations are unstable then it’s hard to build anything significant. It’s clear that North Berwick Rugby have got solid foundations in place, and are as skilled at building as any other club.

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