For a country that draws from one of the smallest playing pools in world rugby, Scotland seem to have always been blessed in the second-row department.
In the professional era alone, luminaries such as Doddie Weir, Scott Murray, Nathan Hines, Al Kellock and the brothers Gray have represented Scotland with distinction, and we shouldn’t have to wait very long for the next tranche to come through wither.
Split between the country’s pro teams lie a number of potentially excellent second-rows, all of whom have plenty of time on their side, most of whom have already experienced playing at the top level. Edinburgh will be looking forward to seeing how Callum Hunter-Hill gets on having snapped him up ahead of next season, whilst those at Scotstoun will be hoping for further progress from the eye-catching Scott Cummings.
Aiming to impress alongside Cummings is young Kiran McDonald, another huge product from a seemingly endless conveyor belt of locks. His journey ahead of 2017/18 may have played out slightly differently to his contemporaries, but there can be little doubt of Kiran’s desire to reach the very pinnacle of rugby.
Having not attended a traditional rugby school, McDonald has still managed to forge a professional contract, as he gave a little background into early sporting days, saying: “At Boclair Academy, football was very much the number one sport, although the sporting facilities were excellent, as was the P.E. department in general.
“I did manage to play a small amount at school but when I joined the RAF at 18 as a reservist, I was asked to play a bit of sevens and thought ‘yeah I’ll give that a bash’, which really started me off.”
Kiran then started playing for Glasgow Accies, where he suffered some injury disappointment by way of a meniscus tear in his knee: “I just rehabbed through it but eventually it caught up with me and I had to get a couple of operations in order to fix everything. I think when I received the opportunity to join the BT Sport Academy system, I started to take my rugby more seriously and thankfully that’s led to me to where I am now.”
Hard graft needed
Grafting away over the summer months is something Kiran and his fellow Warriors are enjoying, especially considering the imminent arrival of new Head Coach Dave Rennie, who is watching footage from afar and relying on assistants’ thoughts before he moves to Scotland.
The Kiwi will be casting his eye over a squad he will remain unfamiliar with for now, which is something that should be of benefit to Kiran and the rest of the Warriors newcomers, although he is used to working under new people on a regular basis.
Having been granted the chance to move down for a stint in England with Hull in the National League North Three last season, Kiran grabbed the opportunity to get exposed to regular game time, a decision which has clearly paid off for him. On that period down south, he said: “At the end of 2016 I was approached to go down to Hull for a few months and because I knew a couple of the guys there from back home, it was something I fancied trying.
“In actual fact, I was called up by my agent on the day I left for Hull with the suggestion that I’d be offered a new deal for this season, so it was something I couldn’t really divulge until it was all in place! It was a great few months down there and the club reached the latter stages of the Yorkshire Cup, which was seen as a big success.”
“I know this is a massive opportunity”
He’s appeared to fit in a lot in a short period of time, but the 22 year-old is well aware of how important this coming season is for him and his rugby playing aspirations, adding: “After suffering a few injuries already in my career, I’m well aware of how massive this opportunity is and am really determined to go for it.
“In the short term, I want to improve as an athlete as much as I can, knowing that some of the more experienced guys in the squad were in a similar position to me a few years back. I’m trying to take in as much knowledge and advice as I can from the coaching team and teammates throughout these pre-season blocks, in order to show the new Head Coach what I can do. I’d love to get some appearances for the club under my belt and the dream for any professional rugby player is to play for your country, but it’s all about the here and now.”
He’s been something of a rugby vagabond up until now but at the age of 22, Kiran McDonald has so much time on his hands in his quest for success.
And although the competition at second-row is fierce enough at Glasgow Warriors let alone farther afield, his obvious determination should ensure that Dave Rennie and others sit up and noticed another potentially top player.
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