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Rugby struggles to score with state schools;Sport in Scotland;Rugby Union

Pupils from state schools are still struggling to break into representative rugby as the fee-paying sector continues to dominate. But with the Scottish Rugby Union's network of youth development officers taking shape the gap could be closing.

In the Lothian Schools team that defeated Glasgow this month in the under-18 district championship, the team that started the match were all from fee-paying schools. The Glasgow side had one player from a state school.

But at under-16 level it has been a different story for Glasgow District, which encompasses Ayrshire. That age-group is roughly 50-50 this year with the likes of Kilmarnock Academy and John Ogilvie High, East Kilbride, represented.

The SRU has acknowledged that the divide between state and private schools needs to be addressed and there are a number of reasons why the current situation prevails.

One is the social factor. As one observer put it: "Pupils at state schools are more likely to be found stacking shelves at Safeway on a Saturday morning than playing first XV rugby." There is also the argument independent school pupils are bigger and enjoy better facilities, not only to play the game but to develop their strength and fitness.

Rob Moffat, coach of the Scotland Schools' team in the 1980s, has expressed concern about the continued predominance of boys from fee-paying schools and the decline of Borders representation in the national side.

Moffat, coach of Galashiels Academy, said: "We play the likes of Edinburgh Academy, Fettes and Dollar and I notice the difference in physique between the boys. The Gordonstoun boys at the recent international trial were huge and Border teams don't tend to be so big for some reason."

But Moffat does not believe the gap between state and independent schools is unbridgeable.

With rugby clubs better organised to trawl for talent and children taking up the game at a younger age, the trend is set to change. Just how radically remains to be seen.

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