The Scottish Borders is synonymous with rugby, but it is normally the likes of Melrose and Hawick that grab the headlines rather than Tennent’s East Region League Division One outfit Duns.
However, all of that changed recently when Duns hooker Cameron Hill was selected to tour with The Penguins to play against The Polar Bears in Finland.
Through coaching and playing, premier touring side The Penguins’ aim is to foster and develop the goodwill of the great game of rugby worldwide.
They have many Scottish connections including former Watsonians Kiwi back-row Craig Brown who is team manager, and this time around, they had players in their squad from north of the border, England, Sweden, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa and Australia.
As well as Hill, one of the other Scots in the squad was Melrose teenager Hamish Weir.
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?? History was made in Helsinki for the Penguins when the first ever player born in the 21st century took to the field. Congratulations to Hamish Weir who is showing off the tour mascot he had to carry around as youngest on tour. Hamish is joined by his father Doddie resplendent in his tartan suit??
Weir - along with his brothers Ben and Angus - famously walked out onto the BT Murrayfield pitch with their father Doddie, who served Scotland and the British & Irish Lions with distinction, in November 2017 to promote the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation which raises money for Motor Neuron Disease sufferers.
And he showed up well in the match while Hill greatly enjoyed the experience of playing with some top quality players who have played at a higher level.
“The trip to Finland was cracking and it was a great opportunity for me,” Hill, 28, told TRU.
“It all came about when Peter Gallagher from Duns put me in touch with Craig Brown from the Penguins and it was great to hear that they wanted me involved to go on the trip.
“There were some really quality players in the team, so for a Scottish regional league player to get to go there and play alongside those kind of guys was really exciting.
“Late last month we flew over on the Thursday night, had a training session on the Friday to get to know everybody and get some things together.
“Then on the Saturday I was lucky enough to start the game and it was played in a good spirit throughout.
“We won quite convincingly in the end, but the main purpose of the exercise was to help grow rugby in a country like Finland and it was great to see the camaraderie and banter between the teams at the end of the game.”
Hill is now back in Scotland and excited ahead of a league season which starts for Duns away to Hawick Linden on September 7.
“We are just a small club, but there is a good mix of youth and experience and most of us are just local boys who give it everything every time we take to the pitch,” the man who played for Duns at Murrayfield in finals in 2009 and 2011 stated.
“I am looking forward to this season and hopefully me getting my chance with The Penguins will see other Duns guys and other regional league players getting opportunities to go on tours like that in the future. It is good for development and growing the game.”
Penguins team manager Brown added: ““Helsinki in the summer is a great place to tour.
“Chris Walker - the former Taranaki, Hurricanes, New Zealand under-20 and London Scottish player who is now at Sidcup - was named skipper and the jerseys were presented by former Portuguese XVs and sevens player Antonio Da Cunha.
“The Penguins were a little too strong for the opposition so at half-time we mixed the teams up and it was great fun.
“Henry Wainwright from Carlisle was named man of the match with strong showings also from Oscar Larsson from Sweden and Lewis Berg from Scotland.
“Cameron Hill was great on and off the field and it is great to get guys from clubs like Duns involved.
“All in all it was a great trip and we are looking at options for our next tour while The HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy has trips planned to Malaysia, Bahrain, India and Uruguay later this year."