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Interest grows as players apply to plead their case at mass trials

Reece Patterson, the Scotland under-18 rugby union cap, is among almost 50 players seeking to catch the eye of the country's international rugby league selectors during trials on either side of the border.

Reece Patterson  has only watched rugby league on television
Reece Patterson has only watched rugby league on television

The mobile prop forward has engaged in a crash course on the rules of the 13-a-side code prior to being put through his paces alongside at least 25 other hopefuls at Edinburgh's Peffermill tomorrow.

Organisers have been surprised and delighted by the response to their open invitation to players to show what they can do ahead of next month's Commonwealth Under-19 Nines in Cumbernauld.

"It's been better than we were expecting," said Ollie Cruickshank, Scotland Rugby League's performance manager, after reporting that 24 players have signed up for the Edinburgh trial and 22 for another trial in Bolton next week. "Quite a few rugby union players have put their hands up and, as Reece Patterson's involvement demonstrates, it's not just players who haven't made it at age-group level in union."

A wide range of experience is encompassed by the trials, as demonstrated by Patterson's preparation. "It is a completely open door and our coaching staff will be treating everyone the same, but once they applied we did ask them for a brief review of their experience and we've got a couple who have only seen rugby league on the telly," said Cruickshank.

"Reece was one of those but he knows Keith Hogg, the Scotland rugby league chairman, and asked him to explain the rules to him."

Other potential converts from rugby union include the former ­Scotland under-16 internationalists Fin Murphy and Ben Porteous.

At the other end of the scale in terms of rugby league background, Richard Harris of London Broncos - who captained last year's Scotland under-18 side - is one of a string of players attached to Super League clubs who are trying out in Bolton.

While a lack of resources has made it difficult for Scotland rugby league to set up a nationwide pathway, ­officials believe that the relatively straightforward nature of the sport makes it easy for those with the requisite basic skills to pick it up.

That was exemplified at last year's World Cup when David Scott, originally a product of the Stirling County rugby union set-up, seized his chance when called into the Scotland team at the end of the pool stages and played his way into a quarter-final tie against defending champions New Zealand. "These trials are a way of providing talented players to show our coaches what they can do," added Cruickshank.

"If we unearth even one future David Scott from among these players then it will be a great success and we've got three years to get up to pace ahead of the next World Cup. So we'll be signposting all those taking part to places that they can get regular involvement in rugby league."

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