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Kyle Rowe is on the cusp of a dream Scotland debut just two years after working in an Amazon warehouse to make ends meet.
The 24-year-old’s professional career hit problems at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 when the winger – who previously specialised at Sevens level – was furloughed and had to find work in a factory in Bathgate.
He eventually got the chance to train with Edinburgh towards the end of the 2020-21 campaign but it was only a surprise move to London Irish last summer that allowed him to get back on track.
Incredibly, his form south of the border helped him earn a maiden call-up for the Six Nations squad earlier this year and although he did not make an appearance for Gregor Townsend’s team, he is likely to mark his stunning transformation with an international debut over the next month or so after being included in the 40-man squad for the summer Tour of South America.
“2019 I was playing Sevens, loving life playing for Scotland,” said Rowe, recalling a roller-coaster few years. “At that time, it was a dream come true because I didn’t think I’d ever play for Scotland at Sevens.
“Then Covid hit, my job wasn’t secure with the Sevens so I had to go and work in an Amazon warehouse in Bathgate. At the time it was tough but for me it was just a stepping stone.
“As much as it was tough for me mentally, it was a case of ‘just get it done, get through it’.
As tough as it was during that period when he was out of the game, Rowe insists he never gave up on his dream of being a top-level rugby player.
“I’ve always had that drive in me to be successful,” he said. “It was drilled in to me by my mum and dad but it was more about trying to keep belief in myself alive, to keep the belief that I could still be a professional rugby player one day.
“Signing for London Irish was a breath of fresh air really, getting out of the whole environment up here and just trying to find some form playing rugby and enjoy myself again. I know it was hard for a lot of people over Covid, so it was just a case of going down and enjoying myself.
“It was tough making the decision to go to England because I didn’t really want to leave my fiancee and my family up here but I knew I didn’t really have any other options up here. It was a no-brainer knowing I was at least going to have a year’s worth of money coming in. It was a case of just take it, go and experience London and London Irish. It’s worked out well.
“When I first signed for Irish I probably didn’t believe I could get my career back to international level because I didn’t know how long I’d be there or how many opportunities I’d get but after I showed the coaches and everyone in the Premiership what I could do, I started to believe in myself.
“It was only recently I started to believe I could play for Scotland, and hopefully I get that chance in the summer.”