Saturday, 15 December 2018

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Rugby: Finn Russell And Kevin Bryce

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Finn Russell from Bridge of Allan and Kevin Bryce from Alloa are both Scottish professional rugby union players and as well as having played rugby together on many occasions they are also good friends.

Finn and Kevin both got their first international caps on Scotland’s 2014 summer tour. Finn is Scotland’s 1056th capped player and Kevin is the 1058th. Both players are represented by agent Gordon Hood who is the founder of the Rugby Partnership Agency; a sports management company, who specialize in managing elite rugby players. Gordon Hood has more than a decade of experience and aims to connect the business and sport worlds. This is something he has helped both Finn and Kevin do throughout their careers.

Both Finn and Kevin strive to give back to their communities, inspiring local youngsters, to live out their dreams. For Finn, it’s visiting his former primary school, speaking to the Bridge of Allan children, explaining what it takes to become a professional rugby player. For Kevin, it’s teaching his nine-year-old son Layton, how to play the game. They both started playing rugby in primary school; Finn in primary 3 and Kevin in primary 7. Both played for several amateur teams on their road to becoming professional and eventually playing for their country.

When they left school both players started an apprenticeship to obtain a trade; Finn worked as a stone mason and Kevin as a plumber. This has grounded them both and has given them a huge appreciation of playing rugby for a living. No matter if they lose a game or don’t have the best training session the pair both look back to their times as labourers, giving them real appreciation of what they get to do each day. They are both incredibly humble, after being interviewed by 17 Degrees Magazine, both asked for copies of the magazine to “go show their mums” and both players have very close relationships with their families. Before they turned profes-sional, they were both winners of the John Macphail Rugby Scholarship, in which they spent 15 weeks in New Zealand at separate times, playing for club teams. This helped them to hone their skills and learn from professional All Black players. It was when the players returned from these scholar­ships that their careers took off.

Finn and Kevin have both played with Glasgow Warriors. This is the club Finn currently plays for, while Kevin is currently playing at Edinburgh Rugby. They are full of life characters who knew what they wanted in life and went for it; and they’re not done yet. Finn scored numerous tries and made the headlines while playing for Scotland in the RBS 6 Nations this year. Kevin is back in shape after a shoulder injury and is excited for another two seasons with Edinburgh Rugby.

Kevin Bryce is a professional Tighthead Prop in the Scottish Rugby Union. He comes from a family of rugby and since he was a young boy all he has wanted to do is play. Kevin is 28 years old and hails from Alloa, Clackmannanshire. He has a younger brother Glenn and sister Gemma who are twins. His dad Jock played for Herriot’s Rugby Club and his love for the sport got his two sons to follow in his footsteps. Glenn is also a professional rugby union player and has played alongside Kevin throughout the years. Kevin’s Mum Sally and sister Gemma enjoy coming to games and showing their support.

Kevin started playing rugby while still at school in Alloa, in Primary 7. He always wanted to play rugby, but hated training: he once locked himself in the car as he didn’t want to get all muddy! This all changed when his coach encouraged Kevin into his first match and he made his first tackle. That tackle launched him right into his life-long career in rugby; but he still hates the training part.

From Alloa, he went to play at Stirling alongside Brother Glenn, under the coaching of their dad. Kevin and Glenn both went on to play at amateur club Herriot’s (like father, like sons) before signing for Glasgow Warriors. Both brothers now play for Edinburgh, and as Kevin puts it the brothers are a buy one get one for free deal. Kevin has also played for Scotland U18, Scotland U19, Scotland A and the Scotland team throughout his career. His brother Glenn is currently playing for the Scotland 7’s team.

Kevin has wanted to play professionally for as long as he can remember, but wasn’t certain it was going to happen. Little did he know that he would go on to play for Scotland on three continents. When Kevin left high-school he worked as a plumber for several years and he’s thankful for this experience as it made him a “hard grafter”. A lot of professional rugby players go straight to the rugby union without having to work in a day job, so Kevin appreciates every day he plays rugby for a living. He says that there are no Mondays in his world every day is a good day, because rugby doesn’t feel like work to him. He got “sacked”, as he put it from his plumbing gig when he went to play for the Scotland U19 team as he had to be away for several weeks at a time.

Following the 2007 Under 19 Rugby World Championship Kevin received the John Macphail rugby Scholarship. The scholarship sent Kevin to Auckland, New Zealand for three months to play club rugby alongside All Black players. Kevin absolutely loved the Rugby mad culture New Zealand, thrived upon and learned a lot from his mentor there, Rob Taylor. He came back worked for his dad who is a self-employed brick-smith and found out he was going to become a dad himself. Becoming a dad at a young age caused him to grow up fast, he bought his first house at eighteen years old and welcomed his son Layton who is now nine, into the world of rugby. Layton like his Dad, Uncle and Grandpa, has played rugby since the age of three.

At this point, Kevin again felt the odds were against him turning professional, as he was not only working full time, but was also raising his son. Despite the odds, Kevin turned professional when he was 24 years old. It wasn’t easy to balance rasising his son and playing rugby. He would often have to train every morning at six am, go to work, then train again before getting to spend time with Layton. As a profes-sional, Kevin still doesn’t have much free time, but when he does, he spends it with Layton. They play rugby or go swimming together, and on school nights Kevin helps Layton with homework, which is neither of their favourite activities.

In May 2013, Kevin signed a one year contract with Glasgow Warriors for the 2013-2014 season. Also, that year Kevin got his first cap for Scotland and became Scottish International 1058 in the 2013 Summer Tour match against Canada. On that tour, the team visited four different countries, for a week at a time with a total of 14 different plane rides. They first played in Texas, USA where Kevin and the team had the opportunity to watch the Houston Texans American football team play. They got to meet the whole team afterwards, including defensive end JJ Watt who according to Kevin, was so tall he felt like a little boy next to him: hard to believe as Kevin stands just under 6 foot and just under 19 stone.

The next stop on their tour was Toronto, Canada, where Kevin got to meet Megan Markle, the current girlfriend of Prince Harry, and other cast members from the show Suits, who just so happened to be filming in Toronto. The team then played in Buenos Aires in Argentina and Port Elizabeth in South Africa, where each member of the Scottish Rugby team, had to have armed body guards. The day after the final match some of the team when out surfing and when they came back to the hotel were messing about and accidentally fell-over, causing Kevin to knock out Full-Back Stuart Hogg’s fake front teeth. It was one of those serious, but incredibly funny moments; and thankfully Stuart thought that as well!

Kevin played for the Scotland A team in 2014, and was signed again by the Glasgow Warriors. The past few years Kevin has been recovering from a shoulder injury he incurred, when playing in the Rugby World Cup in 2015. He was doing a bear crawl exercise during warm-up, before Scotland played Australia in London. He realised immediately that he’d really hurt himself, although was still pre-pared to play as he didn’t want to let his country down. Luckily, Kevin was placed on the bench that day, or he may have made his injury much worse. When he got back to Scotland, he visited the doctor and found out he had broken his shoulder. It’s taken two surgeries to get Kevin back on track. Unfortunately, these misaligned his chest piece tattoo, but otherwise Kevin is feeling in shape. At the end of the 2015/16 season Kevin signed a two-year contract with Edinburgh.

He hopes to continue playing until he’s in his mid thirties, depending on whether his body can take it. Fortunately as a tight end, you usually have a longer career. When he does reach retirement from playing rugby, Kevin hopes to go back to work, possibly off shore. He said there’s no point going to university and pretending to stu-dy when he doesn’t want to. Right now, he’s just planning on enjoying playing rugby for a living, as long as he possibly can.

Scotland’s Fly-Half Finn Russell’s family and coaches realised he had a calling for rugby when in Primary 4 he single-handedly drove another player off the pitch to prevent him from scoring a try. The 24-year-old Bridge of Allan native began playing rugby in Primary 3 and hasn’t put down a rugby ball since then. He comes from a close-knit family; Mum Sally, Dad Keith, and his three siblings Harry, Archie and Jessie. His family wasn’t always a rugby family; his Dad’s side were badminton players and his Mum’s side were into motorcycles. However they most definitely, are a rugby family now. The whole family comes to as many games as they can and Finn’s dad works for the Scottish Rugby Union. Finn currently lives with his siblings in a flat in Glasgow.

Finn attended Wallace High in Stirling. While there, he played every sport he could, except for football. He enjoyed anything athletic but rugby was by far his favourite. He left school at 16 and, after three years as an apprentice stone mason, he was offered a contract to play rugby professionally. It was a no-brainer for him, and clearly he hasn’t looked back since leaving his apprenticeship.

He started his career playing club rugby for Stirling County where his dad coached Finn and his brother Archie. He then went on to play for Falkirk and then to Ayr where he won the league and cup-double in the 2012-2013 season. He also played for the Scotland U20 team in the 2012 IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa. As mentioned previously he was a winner of the John Macphail Rugby Scholarship in Summer 2013, then, like Kevin, had the opportunity to develop his playing technique in New Zealand’s South Side. His rugby skills benefited from the high coaching standards and state of the art facilities provided by the Canterbury Rugby Football Union. These appear-ances sparked Glasgow Warriors Head Coach Gregor Townsend’s interest and in 2014 Finn was offered a contract with the Warriors.

It was during the summer of 2014, when Finn earned his first international cap for Scotland, that his career in international rugby really kicked off. He scored his first try for Scotland in a Six Nations match against Ireland in 2015. Since then he has scored 61 points in Scottish rugby, having scored three tries, eleven conversions, and eight penalty goals with 27 caps and starts. He was chosen to be a part of the 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in 2015; Finn started in four out of the five games. He started for Scotland again in the 2016 and 2017 Six Nations. This year in 2017, he was awarded man of the match when Scotland triumphed over Wales, and was man of the match again when they triumphed over Italy. He was also nominated as a contender for Player of the Championship.

While interviewing Finn we asked him if he gets nervous before matches.

He answered: “I’m pretty chilled out I don’t really get nervous. Some of the lads are being sick and I just put my headphones on and listen to some music and eat some sweeties”. The nutrition­ists have pretty much given up on him, he stated as long as he performs he gets to eat what he likes. He walked into our interview scoffing down one of his favourites, a steak bake. In his spare time, Finn enjoys going out for meals; he isn’t much of a cook, but he could tell you plenty of delicious restaurants to try in Glasgow.

Finn’s most memorable rugby moment was scoring two tries in a match that led Glasgow Warriors to win the Pro 12 title, in the 2014/15 season. He has had excellent opportunities to travel the world during Summer tours and other international matches. This Summer Tour, the team will travel to Australia and Fiji, Finn also hopes to travel to America afterwards during the four-week break after the tour. He has Vegas and Miami in mind!

Like Kevin, Finn isn’t a stranger to the injuries that occur quite often while playing the sport; he fractured his head last year while playing against Connacht in the semi-final of the Pro-12 season. He was out for five months, although this most definitely has not affected his career.

His schedule is incredibly busy, although he wouldn’t have it any other way. He wants to progress in his career as much as possible especially since he is still at a young age. He trains four days a week then plays one day a week. When he’s not playing, or training he’s at the cinema or watching rugby clips in preparation for his next match. He enjoys getaways to the sun, but one of the drawbacks of being an interna­tional rugby player is, you can’t choose when to take time off, and don’t usually get a lot of notice. However, Finn is thankful he gets to travel around the world with his profession.

As well as helping him advance in his rugby career, Finn’s agent has also helped him get involved in other business aspects. Finn has worked as a brand ambassador for Bose and Adidas and is currently representing Vanilla Square; a Letting and Estate Agency in Glasgow. He has decided he wants to get into the property market by way of investing and has chosen Vanilla Square to partner up with. He stated that since his days as a stone mason he has always wanted to invest in property. He has another few years left with his contract at Glasgow Warriors but he’s unsure where he will play next. He’s always thinking ahead as he knows your body won’t let you play rugby forever. He intends to continue into property and upon his retirement which he hopes is a long while from now possibly go into coaching.

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