THAT rugby is helping young people to become not just fitter and healthier but more self-disciplined and purposeful will come as no surprise to those who know and love the sport.

What is a little more wonderful is that this is not taking place only in private schools, with which the game is often unfairly associated in Scotland, but increasingly in comprehensives, including those in disadvantaged areas.

Rugby has long had a middle-class reputation in Scotland, outwith the Borders. Football has been the sport here, with clubs solidly based in industrial areas. But there’s nothing intrinsically middle-class about rugby. It’s always been popular in the Welsh valleys and, in other countries such as France, class plays no part.

Rugby’s values transcend class and, in comprehensives backed by this Scottish Rugby initiative, this is paying off with improved discipline, attendance and motivation among pupils, male and female. All of this leads to better academic achievement. For all the grandiose theories about how to narrow the attainment gap, a gritty sport often associated with privilege is showing the way.

Unlike some other sports, rugby isn’t known for cheating and challenging the referee. It has a well-earned reputation for engendering respect, resilience and character. And these are qualities that can be made to count in all children, regardless of school or social background.