AFTER more than half a century of organised rugby in the town, Helensburgh Rugby Club can now officially count a full Scotland international among its ranks – and unsurprisingly the club, and the player in question’s family, couldn’t be prouder.

Former Hermitage Academy pupil Anne Young made her debut at loosehead prop in the 72nd minute of the Scots’ 36-12 win over Japan at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh on Sunday.

And while those eight minutes passed all too briefly for the Helensburgh contingent among the 2,500 crowd in the shadow of Murrayfield, hopes are high that there will be plenty more to come in a dark blue jersey from the Edinburgh University student in the months and years ahead.

Anne took up rugby as a member of the Helensburgh RFC minis’ section at the age of 10 – and while rules on boys and girls playing mixed rugby kicked in two years later, forcing the youngster to look elsewhere for a place to play, she has remained a big part of the Helensburgh rugby family ever since.

Parents Andrea and Jimmy were watching on throughout – and Andrea revealed that the 21-year-old’s debut was the culmination of a long battle to catch the eye of the Scotland coaches and earn her place on the field representing her country.

“She’s been on the fringes of the national squad for a wee while now,” Andrea said.

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“She was actually named on the bench the last time Scotland played Japan, in 2019, but she wasn’t chosen to go on. And she was named in the squad for Scotland’s tour to South Africa that year, but she didn’t play.

“We were disappointed, and so was she, naturally. But she was told she had to go away and get stronger and bigger – and she’s spent the last two years doing just that.

“The coach, Bryan Easson, said he recognised that Anne had been working hard for the last two years and that she deserved her chance.

“When you get your first cap for Scotland, there’s a ceremony where you’re actually presented with the physical cap – and to have all her friends and family there made it extra special.

“We were very proud. Very nervous as well, but also delighted that the Covid situation meant we could actually be there to see it.”

The Helensburgh contingent at Sunday’s game included Michael Grace, Anne’s minis coach at the club Ian Fletcher and his daughter Joy, who is now playing at Stirling County, as well as another promising young talent from the Burgh ranks, Lucy McCrae, and her mum – so it was no surprise to hear the loud cheers when Anne was called on to replace Christine Belisle in the front row for the closing stages.

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Ian said: “I only coached Anne for two years, in P6 and P7. But even at that young age she impressed – she was named ‘most improved player’ in her P7 year, and you could see even then that she had the hand-eye co-ordination and the ability to avoid contact that you need to be a good rugby player.

“Being selected for the squad for the Japan game in 2019, and for the tour to South Africa, and not playing, might have played on her mind a bit, but she’s worked extremely hard on her strength and conditioning, which is essential for a loosehead prop, since then, and all that hard work has been rewarded.

“I’m delighted for her.”

Not present on Sunday – though not through choice – was Lee Fish, president of Helensburgh Cricket and Rugby Football Club, who was at home self-isolating under Covid prevention rules.

“I would 100 per cent have been there if I’d been able to,” Lee said.

“It was a very, very emotional moment for everyone at the club, and we were incredibly proud.

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“The club has been around for more than 50 years and this is the first time we can say Helensburgh has produced a full internationalist.

“It’s brilliant that we’ve managed to help a local girl on her rugby journey, from her first touches through to pulling on a Scotland jersey.”

And hopes are high that Anne may not be the last player who started their rugby journey in Helensburgh to win a full international cap.

“We have something in the region of 250 children in our youth system at the moment,” Lee continued.

“What we are trying to do is get as many people involved in rugby, and enjoying the benefits of rugby, as we possibly can.

“We’ve been quite successful in national competitions at youth level in recent years – in fact one player, Adam Scott, who started playing rugby in the Helensburgh set-up aged nine, and stayed with us until under-17 level, made his debut for the Scotland under-20s in this year’s Six Nations.

“People like Anne and Adam can be real talismen for the next generation of young players in Helensburgh.

“What Adam has done, and what Anne did on Sunday, makes it real for them.

“Children can look at them and think ‘I could do that too’.”