WHEN you are released by a club after making just a single appearance for them in a meaningless end-of-season match, a certain amount of self-doubt is all but inevitable. 

Kyle Rowe certainly felt that emotion on being freed by Edinburgh last summer, shortly after representing them for the first and only time in a Rainbow Cup match against Scarlets. But, buoyed by the belief of those around him that he could become a top player, he also felt a quiet determination to prove himself.

That determination has been vindicated this season as the winger, now 24, has established himself as a star with London Irish. And further recognition of his progress came this week when he was named in Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad for the summer tour to Chile and Argentina.

Rowe has enjoyed qualified recognition of his potential before. A former Scotland Sevens player, he was selected by Townsend at the start of the year for the wider Six Nations squad, but was not included in a matchday 23. Now, however, he is closer than ever to making his Test debut, a feat that would surely represent the culmination of a remarkable reversal of fortunes.

“At Edinburgh I didn’t really get a shot,” he recalled this week at a Murrayfield press conference after the squad was announced. “I played the last game of the season. It was kind of a dead rubber - as much as I loved playing for Edinburgh I knew it didn’t really mean anything. 

“For me, it was just going out and showing what I could do. I hadn’t played for two years because of Covid, and now at Irish I’ve shown what I can do and shown I can play at the top level. Now hopefully I can kick on and play some Test matches.

“As much as I’d love my first cap to be here at Murrayfield, just getting a first cap is going to be big and hopefully from there I’ll be able to kick on. Hopefully one day I can play at Murrayfield, but if it doesn’t happen I can say that I’ve played for Scotland.”

And if Rowe does that in any of the three Tests against Argentina match - the Chile game is an ‘A’ international so no caps will be awarded - he will have his London Irish coaches to thank for seeing something in him that the then coaching team at Edinburgh failed to recognise. “They’ve got full faith in me, no matter what,” he continued. “That’s what they said at the start. But obviously for them I was a bit of an unknown, because they hadn’t really seen me play.

“As much as they had faith in me and I had faith in myself, I knew I had to go out and take this opportunity. I had all these nerves, but I knew if I could suppress them and overcome them and trust my ability, then I knew I could play and go out and do what I do.”

By the turn of the year, Rowe was in the Premiership’s top three for tackles broken, along with Worcester’s Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe and Wasps back-row forward Alfie Barbeary. And in January, he was part of the London Irish team that defeated Edinburgh in the Challenge Cup. 

But the real breakthrough, he believes, possibly came last autumn, when he was simply given the chance by his new club to show what he could do. It was then, he realised, that he might just be in the running to receive national recognition.

“Probably the start of this season, to be honest, when I started to get a good run of games and got into a bit of form,” he said after being asked when he thought playing for Scotland could turn from a dream into reality. “I kind of thought ‘I’ve got potential here’. 

“Before that, I never thought any of this would come about. As much as my family and my fiancee have said I’ve got it in me, I never fully believed, because I’ve not really had a chance. It’s only been recently that I’ve started believing in myself and that I can play Test-match rugby.”

Townsend certainly believes Rowe can do that, and revealed that he is considering him for a run at full-back as well as on the wing. “What a season he’s had,” the coach said. “On the back of getting one game for Edinburgh and not getting a contract in Scotland, to go down to London Irish, impress in pre-season and become one of the key players . . . . 

“He’s got a real intelligence about his game and he’s a candidate for 15. He’s got a good kicking game, good in the air and he’s a communicator on the field.”