FORMER Millburn Academy pupil Patrick Kelly is in Scotland’s under-20 squad to face France tomorrow.
Kelly will become the fourth Highlander in as many years to make the step up to international level should he take the field in Scotland’s 6 Nations opener in Gueugnon.
He will follow in the footsteps of Bruce Flockhart, Lyall Archer and Ruaridh Knott to don the dark blue jersey and Highland head coach Dave Carson believes it is evidence of the club’s quality youth setup.
Centre Kelly played for the Canal Park side up to under-15 level before moving to Merchiston Castle, a boys school in Edinburgh. He is currently on a gap year playing rugby in France at Aix-en-Provence.Carson, who coached Kelly through the mini and micro sections with Highland, believes he always had the ability to succeed.
“Patrick was always a strong runner, good tackler and all-round top player. Even at a young age you could see that,” said Carson.
“He’s gone away and played a good standard of rugby at Merchiston and playing in France can only help. We would like to think we gave him the groundwork and we’re absolutely delighted for him, as we are when any of the boys get selected for Scotland.
"It's fantastic for the club when some people think Rugby isn't played north of Perth."
He featured at centre in the first practice match against a Scotland Club XV where they won 30-17. His father Dr. Sean Kelly, a consultant at Raigmore Hospital, says his son is very proud of his Highland roots and remembers his first big trip to the under-12 International Tournament at London Irish, where he also played pipes as well as rugby.
At 15, he won a scholarship to Merchiston Castle School and finished there as captain. His playing career continued to accelerate and he currently plays for Le Parc, a second division side in southern France. Kelly plans to go to university after his gap year while continuing to play rugby.
On Sunday, the Highland under-16s look set to at last make the trip to Peebles for the National Bowl quarter-final and this will be a big test for Highland’s squad. If they can put in a strong performance they might make a semi-final clash against Biggar or Garnock.
The Highland first-team are not in action tomorrow, however the second XV have a game against Fraserburgh.