Win against Wales was “electric” - now Jake Parkinson is keen to kick on with Scotland U20s

Jake Parkinson with his parents after the win over Wales
©Jake Parkinson

As home debuts go, Friday, February 10th could not have gone much better for Scotland under-20 second-row Jake Parkinson.

He helped the national age-grade side to an 18-17 win over Wales at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow and it was the first time Scotland had triumphed in a match in any competition at this level since March 2020, with 15 losses in between.

His parents, Ann and Mark, had travelled up from their home in Burnley to watch and on Parkinson's mind at the final whistle was his late Grandad Norman McLeod Stewart whom he never met, but whose Scottish connections have allowed him to represent the thistle.

The 19-year-old Ealing Trailfinders/Brunel University London prospect had made his first appearance for Scotland the week before at the Twickenham Stoop when they nearly stunned the home support before going down 41-36.

Next up for Scotland in round three of the tournament is France in the Stade Armandie in Agen this coming Friday evening and, looking back on the Wales triumph, Parkinson told TRU: “It was just electric at the final whistle, it was a great result.

“We played pretty well in tough conditions, everyone who started - and everyone who came on - put their bodies on the line and did their bit to make sure that we could go on and get the win.

“It was amazing at the end and we had taken a lot of pride and confidence from the way we had played at times to push England all the way in week one.

“We would have liked to have won that one, but it wasn’t to be and we used it as a stepping stone to help us get the victory over Wales.

“Coming into this campaign, we were all aware that the under-20s had not won a match in a while, but we started with a clean slate and now we have got that win I really think we can kick on and build from where we are.

“My Mum and Dad came up to the Wales match from Burnley and my Dad had a full kilt-type outfit on, he had every Scottish piece of clothing on you could imagine!

“He is English but along with Mum, he is my biggest supporter and after we had done the tunnel and clapped the Welsh boys off at the end, I was straight over to see them in the stand as they have helped me a lot to get to where I am now.”

“I went down to my local rugby club and gave it a try and I haven’t really looked back since”

We know that Parkinson’s Scottish connection comes through his Grandad, but how did the lad who grew up around the Burnley and Nelson areas of Lancashire begin his rugby journey?

“I started rugby quite late when I was in about Year Six [aged 10 or 11],” he recounts.

“We played Touch at first, but the teacher who was coaching us said I was not great at that, but might be good at full contact rugby so I went down to my local rugby club Colne & Nelson and gave it a try and I haven’t really looked back since.”

Parkinson played there for a couple of years and then moved to Preston Grasshoppers where he went on to become under-16 captain, also earning Lancashire under-16 and 17 honours while at the club.

During that time, he also moved school from Ermysted's Grammar School in Skipton in Yorkshire to Kirkham Grammar School in Preston.

“One of my rugby playing friends was already at Kirkham and he mentioned to the coach there that I was a decent player and what have you and soon after, I received a phone call from the school,” he explains.

“I ended up going to Kirkham for the last two years of school and it was a great place for me to be because the rugby programme there is very good.

“We played in a lot of big matches and, a few months into my time there, we got to the final of the St Joseph's College National Schools Rugby Festival [in November 2019].

“Unfortunately, later that season I injured my knee pretty badly. I tore my ACL, my MCL and my meniscus in a game against Denstone College. I knew straight away when it happened that it was quite a serious injury because my knee completely buckled in contact.

“In total, I was out of the game for around 11 months, but the pandemic actually did me a bit of a favour rugby-wise because I didn’t actually miss too much competitive action.

“The injury happened early in 2020 and when I came back [in the second part of the 2020/21 season] I was able to play some games for Kirkham and for Sale Sharks at age-grade level too.

“I ended my Kirkham career with a swallow dive over the line for a try in my last home game, so that was nice after so long out!"

“I think the link-up between Ealing and Brunel is excellent”

Just before his injury nightmare, Parkinson had been spotted playing for Kirkham at Harrow School by scouts from Ealing Trailfinders and Brunel University London.

Via the exciting partnership between the club and the university, they offered him a place to develop his rugby and study post-school from the late summer of 2021 onwards - and he has really enjoyed the last 18 months or so.

“I think the link-up between Ealing and Brunel is excellent,” the youngster, who is in his second-year studies-wise focusing on business and management, said.

“Ealing are producing really quality young players while the facilities that we have at our disposal are second to none.

“The coaching is fantastic too and we have had some good results as a Brunel team in the league [BUCS Men's Premier South 1] this season which means we will have some play-off games to come in our bid to get up into BUCS Super Rugby.

“I really enjoy the environment at Ealing and being able to study at the same time through Brunel gives me the best of both worlds.”

As with his time at Kirkham, injury hampered Parkinson during his first season at Ealing/Brunel in 2021/22.

“I had been asked to train with the Scotland under-20 wider squad in late 2021 in the lead up to the 2022 Six Nations, but very soon after that, I tore the scaphoid in my wrist,” Parkinson said.

“That was gutting and it put me out from December until pre-season of the 2022/23 season.

“I am making up for lost time now and it is just such a buzz to be involved with a great club and university set-up as well as with Scotland under-20.

“As I said earlier, with the under-20s I think we can really build from where we are now and there is a lot of growth to come from the squad in the next three Six Nations games and beyond.

“The home-based players have welcomed me and the other Exiles in really well and I have enjoyed working with the coaching staff, being able to learn from forwards coach Fergus Pringle who is very detailed and knows what he wants from his second-rows.”