Scotland wing Rory Hughes' roots steel him for Test bow

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland
Rory Hughes playing for Glasgow Warriors' sevens side
Rory Hughes playing for the sevens side Glasgow Warriors fielded at Melrose in April

The roll call of sportsmen from Castlemilk, an area of social deprivation on the south side of Glasgow, is a pretty one-dimensional list - footballers, footballers, the occasional boxer and then more footballers.

Ikechi Anya of Watford and Scotland has roots in Castlemilk. So have James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady of Everton and Republic of Ireland.

Castlemilk is where Eddie and Frank Gray took their first steps in football before they made it big at Leeds, where Bernie Slaven and Ray Houghton spent time before departing for England, where Jim McInally had his formative years before his glittering career at Dundee United.

My heart stopped - Rory Hughes on first Scotland start

The list stretches on - international footballers with a Castlemilk connection. And now there is another - with a difference.

On Saturday in Turin, Rory Hughes will play on the wing for Scotland as Vern Cotter continues to cast his eye over his options before picking his final 31-man World Cup squad with a deadline of 31 August.

Very few people outside Scotland would have heard of Hughes, mostly because very few people inside Scotland have heard of him.

Actually, that's only partly true. An element of his story is known. The grim part, the part that saw him charged and put on trial - along with two fellow Glasgow Warriors players, Ryan Grant and Ryan Wilson, for an assault in a fast food joint in Glasgow's west end in the autumn of 2013.

The case against Hughes was not proven. Apart from the basic biography, that's the extent of our knowledge about the wing.

Scotland's line-up to face Italy
Backs: Greig Tonks, Sean Lamont, Richie Vernon, Matt Scott, Rory Hughes, Duncan Weir, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
Forwards: Gordon Reid, Stuart McInally, Mike Cusack, Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist (capt), Alasdair Strokosch, John Hardie, Adam Ashe.
Substitutes: Ross Ford, Alasdair Dickinson, Willem Nel, Jim Hamilton, Hamish Watson, Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne , Damien Hoyland.

He's 22, he's from Castlemilk, he's been a Glasgow player for two seasons and has played seven games, four of them off the bench. He has scored no tries and pulled up no trees.

He has been the source of one big 'Wow!' moment in his young career and that was when Cotter selected him in his training squad for the World Cup.

Nobody knew why. In Turin, we might start finding out.

It's going to take an improbable - you would have to say impossible - series of events for Hughes to make the final cut, but it's a blessing that Cotter picked him in the wider group for it gave us a chance to hear his story - and it's quite a tale.

In Scottish Rugby's attempts to develop the game in areas where rugby never previously existed, Hughes is their poster boy.

Rory Hughes with some of his Glasgow Warriors team-mates
Hughes (second from left) has been on the fringes at Glasgow

Clearly he has rugby talent, even if we've seen too little of it to judge how much of it he has. Cotter would not have selected him unless he thought he had something to bring to the table.

What's indisputable, though, is the strength of his personality. You want to talk about guys having to fight for everything's he got, then Hughes is your man.

"I went to Kings Park Secondary School which was a football school based in Castlemilk and that's where I grew up," he says.

"When I was at school there was no rugby at all. If I played it in the streets of Castlemilk there would be people wondering what kind of ball it was. They'd want to know why I was playing with a flat ball.

"When I was six-years-old I was too big for the other sports and I asked my mum if I could get into rugby. She found me a local club just down the road, which is called GHA. My mum enrolled me in there.

"I played for the first team when I was 16. From there I went to Stirling County and was contracted with the Scotland Sevens team as an elite development player.

"I was always the odd one out as a rugby player. All my friends were either footballers, joiners and things like that. I was really into my joinery. My dad's a plumber, my brother a roofer, so I would probably have gone into construction if I didn't have rugby.

Glasgow Warriors wing Rory Hughes
Hughes is proud of his Castlemilk roots

"There aren't many people who come from Castlemilk who go on to play professional rugby. I'm proud to put my hand up and say I am the first person to do it. There are so many people from Castlemilk who have great talent but let the Castlemilk in them keep them down. They don't let themselves blossom.

"I always pride myself on coming from Castlemilk, not an up-and-coming area or a posh area. It always helped me out on the rugby pitch as well, because if I got hurt, instead of just lying down I would battle through it because you can't show weakness in Castlemilk."

Hughes said he was stunned when he heard that he was in the training squad to begin with.

"I went along to get a medical which involved a heart test, but I thought that was for every player who qualified for Scotland and we all needed to get it done as it was a World Cup year," he explained. "Then I found out that I had a chance of being named in the 46-man squad, so that was a shock."

From a squad of 46 he's now in the 15 for Turin. His progression from the bittiest of bit-parts at Glasgow to Test match rugby is a seismic leap into the unknown, the like of which we have not seen in Scotland for quite some time.

Earlier this year he was playing club rugby for Stirling County and nobody knew who he was, save for the court case.

It's not the stuff that's behind him that fascinates us now, but the stuff that lies ahead.

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