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Fit-again prop Jack Stearman set to fly flag for Scotland
JACK STEARMAN has received the boost of international recognition to help him finish a “terrible season” on a good note.
The 24-year-old prop played only once for York City Knights’ first team in 2012 and is ending the year back in the amateur arena with New Earswick All Blacks, but he has nevertheless been named in a provisional 30-man Scotland for the upcoming Alitalia European Cup.
It comes a year after his debut for the national team ended prematurely due to a dislocated elbow – which kicked off 12 months of woe that has also included a pulled hamstring and a pulled calf, interspersed with a trip to Cyprus for twin Joe’s wedding which also ruled him out for two games and likewise set back his first-team hopes.
Stearman, a former Scotland Students player, admitted the call came as a surprise.
“I spoke to Steve McCormack (Scotland boss) half-way through the year and told him it’s not been a great year. He said to stay positive and hopefully I’d get picked. That kept my hopes up but it’s still a surprise,” he said.
“They’re picking a 20-man squad for both games.
“I’m not too hopeful of playing seeing the quality of the props in there, but it is nice to be recognised in the 30 and if I do get in the 20 then that’s a bonus. It’s definitely a positive after a terrible year for me personally.”
Scotland – who will be coached for this tournament by Dave Rotherham as McCormack takes time out – kick off the competition against Ireland in Edinburgh a week tomorrow, as both teams step up preparations for next year’s World Cup. The Saltires then play England Knights on October 28. The squad for the opener will be cut to 20 before the team go into camp in Cumbria on Wednesday.
Stearman, who qualifies for Scotland as his mother is from Glasgow, made only one brief first-team appearance for home-town club York this term, in addition to 11 reserve outings in which he scored nine tries. He has since turned out twice for All Blacks’ first team in the Pennine League.
He has long held hopes of making the Scottish World Cup party, though, and this selection is a timely lift. He said: “It’s been a bit of a disheartening year, but this is a boost.”
Those World Cup hopes could well depend on getting regular first-team action next year and to that end Stearman is considering his options.
He will always be welcome at the Knights, where he is the community development officer, but he has played only 15 times in two years following his breakthough season in 2010 when he helped the club to promotion from Championship One. Dropping back to that tier might be an option.
He added: “If I want to be part of the Scotland squad I need to be playing and have a good pre-season and an injury-free campaign. Right now I’m enjoying my rugby again at All Blacks, which is good.”
Also in the Scotland squad are former Knights Neil Lowe, Ben Hellewell, Gareth Moore and York-born Lee Paterson.
Among the props Stearman is up against are Lowe, of Hunslet, veteran Paul Jackson, who has just signed for Whitehaven from Castleford, Halifax’s Sam Barlow, twins Adam Walker and Jonathan Walker, who played in Super League this year for Huddersfield and Castleford respectively, and Sheffield’s Championship winners Mitch Stringer and Jack Howieson.
Included in the Ireland squad are ex-Knights forward Sean Hesketh and Pat Smith, the Sheffield hooker who hails from Dringhouses and is brother to Knights second-row Ed.