Student of the game
Studying for an undergraduate degree and striving to make it as a professional athlete are goals that both require a significant amount of dedication.
Undertaking one of those goals is a big commitment. Undertaking both is just part of daily life for Rufus McLean.
“I’d be lying if I said it was easy to balance everything!” laughed the Scotland U20 full-back.
“Usually I’ll have rugby from 7.30am until 11am, depending on my lecture timetable. I’ll then go into uni for about 12 for a lecture or tutorial, and then I’m in uni until about 4pm. It’s then back home and make sure I get my assignments done!”
The 20-year-old is unfazed by the delicate balancing act, however, combining his Spanish and Marketing degree at the University of Strathclyde with his FOSROC Scottish Rugby Academy commitments. McLean is quick to highlight the support of the Glasgow-based institution, with the university having recently extended its partnership with Glasgow Warriors.
“The support at Strathclyde has been invaluable for me,” he said.
“I was introduced to the elite athlete liaison almost straight away, and she sat down with me and got straight to the point – ‘here’s your timetable for rugby, here’s your timetable for uni, let’s shuffle it around and see what works best for you’. There’s a bit of compromise sometimes where I’m occasionally pushed for time, but it’s been smooth sailing so far.
🏃♂️💨 Warrior Nation meet @rufus_mclean
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) June 29, 2020
“Keeping your mind focused after fully exerting yourself at rugby is something that I’m still learning to cope with, but at the same time it’s a different environment and different social group. It makes you excited to go back into uni because you can catch up with everyone. The academic work definitely keeps me focused too!”
Indeed, McLean is already planning for life after rugby through his studies. Having been side-lined due to injury, the former Merchiston Castle pupil is beginning to form a clear picture of his plans off the pitch.
“Being injured gave me a bit of perspective early on that I need to have something else lined up if rugby doesn’t work out for whatever reason,” explained McLean.
“I’ve been learning Spanish for a while and really enjoy it, and I wanted to go down a more guided route with it. Hopefully it opens up a route to work in some sort of international company further down the line that requires me to make use of those language skills.”
On the field, a shift to the west of Scotland saw McLean swap the Edinburgh base of the FOSROC Scottish Rugby Academy for Glasgow over the summer of 2019. With the academy for Glasgow and the west based at Scotstoun, the young full-back is making full use of the opportunity to observe and learn from some of the best players the country has to offer.
“It’s been unreal so far,” smiled the full-back.
“It’s definitely different to Edinburgh, mostly in terms of whereabouts we train – to have the opportunity to train in the same facility as the Warriors is amazing.
“Just being able to watch them and how they act as a professional team is incredibly inspirational.”
With Scotland caps at U16 and U18 level under his belt in addition to his U20 representation, the future looks bright for McLean. The man himself, however, is refusing to look too far ahead, instead focusing on picking the brains of the academy coaching team.
“It’s incredibly useful having guys like Shade [Munro] and the other coaches on hand – it’d be a waste to have them available and not ask them for advice!” said McLean.
“It’s great to know you can go and speak to any of them – they’ll identify parts of your game that you can improve on that you might not have seen yourself.
“I think it’s good to have goals and ambition, but for me the most important focus is getting back out on the field. I want to get my body fixed first – I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’m just focusing on getting out there and continuing to enjoy my rugby.”