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Accident of birth gives Heathcote his chance

It was not a case of nepotism, but playing alongside the Scotland head coach's son for English age-grade teams has played a significant part in Tom Heathcote's astonishing inclusion in the squad to face Tonga on Saturday.

Andy Robinson admitted that he had come to know Heathcote and discover he was born in Inverness while the two youngsters were England team-mates and had been sounding out whether he might be prepared to switch allegiance for the past year and more.

The 20-year-old Bath stand- off, whose parents are both English while he is also qualified for Wales through his grandparents, opted to stay with England at under-20 level last season but after consulting widely, has decided to seize his chance to enter the Test arena.

"I probably decided a few months ago," he said. "I had the offer to take this route and it was something I could not really turn down.

"It was not something I expected to happen so soon but, when it came about, it was something I could not refuse, the chance to play rugby at the highest level is what everyone wants."

Heathcote's availability to Scotland is literally an accident of birth since he is the only member of his family with any qualification whatsoever, his older sister having been born in Cornwall whereas he was born in Inverness because his dad, an RAF pilot, was then based at Kinloss.

"My parents obviously felt quite a connection to Kinloss and Findhorn where we lived for a few years after I was born. We still travel back on holiday and have family and friends in Findhorn who we visit quite regularly," he explained.

"In that sense, we have quite a big connection to Scotland – and particularly this part of Scotland. We celebrate Burns' Night and things like that and, as the family member born in Scotland, when I was young and growing up, I always embraced that.

"To be given this opportunity to play probably as close as possible to where I was born and where we lived is fantastic and I am really looking forward to it.

"When I was young, I always felt a big connection and always tried to follow Scotland and the Scottish team. Playing for Bath last year against Glasgow was cool and to play against a lot of the guys who I am now in the squad with was pretty cool, as well.

"To start with, I spent a lot of time thinking over it and chatting to a lot of people, my parents and friends and coaches. I wanted to make sure that I gave it enough thought because, obviously, it was a big decision for me, but when I did come to the decision, it felt right and it came pretty easily.

"Once I decided in myself that I was going to do it, I felt very happy and did not want to look back. Now that it is happening I am very happy and am very much looking forward to the next chapter."

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