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Highland player lands Scotland mascot role at Rugby World Cup

By Erin Miller

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Alastair Grant of Culloden Academy to accompany the Scotland team at the Rugby World Cup.
Alastair Grant of Culloden Academy to accompany the Scotland team at the Rugby World Cup.

A young Highland rugby player has been given the opportunity of a lifetime as he is set to walk out with captain Jamie Ritchie at the Scotland vs Ireland World Cup match in Paris.

It is the final group stage match, which will determine if Scotland will advance to the next round of the World Cup. The match is taking place at the Stade de France Stadium on Saturday at 8pm.

Alastair Grant (12), a Culloden Academy pupil, will be the sole mascot for the Scotland team on the day.

He is an all round sports talent, with a natural gift in rugby as well as football and shinty.

As a standout for the under-13s team at Highland Rugby Club, the youngster was nominated for the 'Defender of Tomorrow’ mascots competition by the club for his “selfless hard work and commitment to perform and help his team-mates perform” and was described as a ‘true credit’ to the club.

He shares his love for the sport with his dad Steve, who coaches for the under-13s team.

When they are not at training or games with their local rugby team, they watch a lot of rugby together on the TV and on occasion have a day out together to Murrayfield to support their nation.

The pair will now fulfil what would seem like a dream to them as they will soak up the atmosphere of a packed Stade de France, which has a capacity of over 80,000.

Not only will they watch the game, but Alastair will take centre stage on the pitch, leading out the Scotland team, meeting the players and singing the national anthem.

Steve said: “We have got our itinerary, so we are flying out to Paris on Thursday. We are getting met at the airport, and then on Friday we get the choice of either a trip up the Eiffel Tower or a trip on the Seine. I think we are going to go for a cruise on the Seine! Then on Saturday we get picked up from the hotel in a Landrover Defender and get taken to the match, so Alastair will go through a rehearsal beforehand, so it is really all very exciting.”

Asked how Alastair was feeling ahead of his big moment, Steve said: “He is a bit nervous, but he is also very, very, very excited.

“We have been in touch with some of the co-ordinators in France so they are sort of used to dealing with the kids and getting them geed-up for games. It will be a nerve-racking experience because there will be such a big crowd but it will be a memorable experience that he will be able to tell his grandchildren about!

“There will be lots of family and friends that will be watching on telly along with millions of people around the world, I am sure.”

Steve struggled to find the words to describe his pride: “We are very, very proud, it is a massive thing and I think it is very surreal. It is very hard to explain, we are just so excited and can’t believe that he is getting to do this, it is amazing.”

He spoke about the ‘buzz’ around the local rugby club in the run up to the occasion:

“It is a big thing for Inverness and the Highlands as well," he said. “I think the whole club is excited about it as well. There is a real buzz going about the rugby club at the moment.”

There will be even more to celebrate as match day is also Alastair's mum Kirsten's birthday. She will be in Paris too, along with his sister Sarah.

“We are making a wee family holiday out of it, although it will be strange because we are staying in separate hotels, because Alastair and I’s flights and hotels were arranged by Landrover Defender so we had to get another hotel for my wife and my daughter – so we are flying separately,” Steve said.

Chris Brogan, director of rugby at Highland Rugby Club, said: “We are very excited and it is always great when we get represented. We have been represented at Murrayfield before but to go to the World Cup is obviously the pinnacle.

“Alastair is not just representing us, he is representing the whole of the Highlands area really, so we are really chuffed for him. There certainly is a buzz about it and we are all a wee bit jealous of it, we are looking forward to seeing him on telly and everyone at the club is going to come along and watch the game together on the Saturday night.”

Mr Brogan added that the pair were fitting recipients of such an honour: “He is a good kid and Steve is a good guy as well. They have worked hard at the club and we are really proud of them.”

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