Matt Scott, Edinburgh Rugby’s 22-year-old centre signing, is living proof that you can have it all – if you’re prepared to work for it. Contracted to Edinburgh at the end of the third year of his law degree, Matt juggled training and tours with the pressures of writing a dissertation, and graduated this summer on the same day he returned from a tour of Australia, Fiji and Samoa with the Scottish national team. Here Matt shares the blood, sweat and tears that went into leading his double life.
How did you get into rugby in the first place?
I started playing mini rugby around the age of 6, at my local club, Currie. My dad took me down there, and I stuck with Currie all the way up through the age groups, and got into professional rugby through that.
How tricky was it to manage your training with your law degree?
It was hard. In the first year of my law degree I was playing for Scotland Under-19s, then the following year I was playing for Scotland Under-20s and we were away for weeks at a time, so I was missing weeks of lectures. My lecturers were saying to me, “Look, your work is suffering as a result, maybe take a step back from the rugby”, but I was determined to do both at the same time.
I was offered a contract in Glasgow at the end of my second year, but I turned it down, because it just wasn’t practical at all. At the end of third year I got offered an Edinburgh contract, so it actually worked out okay, and in fourth year I was able to study and play at the same time. It was hard, because we train until about 4pm every day, and then you have to catch up with uni in the library. It was pretty bleak, but it was worth it.
Did you ever worry that you had made the wrong decision by turning down that Glasgow contract?
I was pretty confident that if I kept playing well I could get an Edinburgh contract, but it was a tough decision to make, and my heart was definitely telling me to take the contract. However, you can’t be a rugby player forever, so it would have been stupid to end my degree halfway through.
What is the lifespan of a professional rugby player?
Nowadays a lot of guys are getting brought into the pro game quite early, at the age of about 18, and they get put into academy systems. For those guys they’re straight into rugby after school,and if you’re a good player you could be expected to play into your early 30s, but there’s not many people playing at a high level beyond 34. It’s especially tough if you haven’t had a chance to go to uni. There are support mechanisms through rugby though, where you can do part- time degrees, and the Scottish Rugby Union will pay half your fees if you want to do that.
How did it feel to be selected for the Scottish national team last year?
It was incredible; I was still a student, but I was away on 6 Nations and trying to do my dissertation at the same time, and I don’t think I quite grasped the enormity of it until afterwards. I probably didn’t get it until this summer, when I went on tour to Australia, Fiji and Samoa, and then I got a holiday after that and it all sunk in.
What has been your career highlight so far?
I mean first cap is always special, but a really good one was when we beat Australia on that tour, and it was only my second capping. I think it was the first time we had beaten them out there in 28 years. It was the last kick of the game and just such an amazing feeling.