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Thursday Apr 18, 2024

Kyle Rowe’s remarkable journey from an Amazon warehouse to the international stage

The success Kyle Rowe has enjoyed this season has been all the sweeter given everything he has been through over the past few years.

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It’s been some journey for the Glasgow Warriors winger who was involved in all but one of Scotland’s recent Six Nations matches. During the Covid pandemic, he found himself without a job when his Sevens contract was mothballed and he ended up working in an Amazon warehouse.

After re-igniting his rugby career with London Irish, he then suffered a further double whammy when a serious knee injury was followed by his club going under.

Once again, he was unemployed and facing an uncertain future. But a lifeline emerged in the shape of an opportunity at Glasgow and he has grabbed it with both hands.

He has been in scintillating form this season, with his hat-trick of tries against the Scarlets in the last round of the BKT URC taking his league tally to seven, putting him third on the chart behind his prolific team-mate Johnny Matthews (13) and another hooker, the Vodacom Bulls’ Akker van der Merwe (8). International recognition has followed and the future is looking bright for the 26-year-old.

Born in Ascot to a Scottish father and English mother, he moved around a fair bit as a child with his dad serving in the Scots Guards, including one spell living in barracks just outside Buckingham Palace. Then, when he was seven, the family headed north of the border to settle there and it was while at Queen Victoria School in Dunblane that he took up rugby and fell in love with the game.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – FEBRUARY 10: Scotland player Kyle Rowe makes a break during the Guinness Six Nations 2024 match between Scotland and France at BT Murrayfield Stadium on February 10, 2024 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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His talent soon became apparent and he progressed through the club ranks with Falkirk, Glasgow Hawks and title-winning Ayr before earning a Scotland Sevens contract aged 21. But after less than a year on the Sevens circuit, the shutters came down as the pandemic struck. He was initially furloughed and then came the news that his SRU contract would not be renewed.

So, in need of a job, Rowe wound up at the Amazon warehouse in Bathgate in the run-up to Christmas 2020.

“I basically had to pay bills. It was pretty tedious work for about six weeks,” he recalls.

“Once I finished there, I wasn’t selected for the GB Sevens which was another big setback.”

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After spending six months with Edinburgh, Rowe again found himself in limbo before London Irish came in for him, with his eye-catching performances for the Premiership club earning him a call-up to the Scotland squad and a first cap against Argentina in July 2022.

But just 12 minutes after coming on as a replacement in Salta, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury which was to put him out for the best part of a year.

Then, just as he was regaining fitness, he found himself without a club again as London Irish went under in the summer of 2023.

“That put me in a bit of a sticky situation because I hadn’t played for a full year and there are some boys who don’t come back from an ACL injury,” he says.

“It was difficult for everyone. I owe a lot to London Irish for giving me that opportunity to play. It was such a great club to be a part of and to see them go under was pretty hard.

“I was obviously nervous and a bit scared that this could be another episode of rugby not being a thing in my life anymore. It was about six weeks where I was waiting to see what would happen. But with what I had gone through previously, I had that experience behind me of being made redundant.

“I just had a feeling things would work out with finding a job in rugby again as I had actually played some professional games and played for Scotland. “I was pretty hopeful of an offer coming in and then Glasgow came in and I was pretty buzzing.”

Rowe has gone from strength to strength at Scotstoun, securing a recall to the Scotland squad through his elusive running and predatory finishing.

He started the first two games of the Six Nations against Wales and France, showing his versatility by slotting in at first full-back and then wing, while he was in the match-day 23 for two further Championship fixtures, coming off the bench versus Ireland.

Now he’s back doing the business out wide for Glasgow and looking forward to Friday night’s URC encounter at home to the Hollywoodbets Sharks.

“I had a goal at the start of the season just to get some games under my belt and try and stay injury free,” he said.

“I feel like I have got back to a really good point in my career and that I am probably better now than I was pre-injury. I just want to stay fit, keep scoring tries and play well.”

As well as his natural ability, Rowe also has a real mental toughness – a legacy of all he has experienced.

TOPSHOT – Wales’ wing Josh Adams (L) and Scotland’s full-back Kyle Rowe jump for the ball during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Wales and Scotland at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on February 3, 2024. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. Use in books subject to Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) approval. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“I was kind of brought up that way, of being resilient, with dad being away a lot when I was younger,” he explained.

“He would go on tour quite a bit to Afghanistan, Iraq and stuff like that. You kind of build that resilience from a young age and then having all this stuff thrown at me during my rugby career.

“To go through two redundancies, your club going under and being without a job – then an ACL injury on top of that. There’s quite a few people that don’t go through that during their life or their career. So it’s built up a lot of resilience in me.”

It’s also made the four-times capped Rowe relish what he now has all the more.

“I come in every day and I am very grateful for what I do,” he says.

“There are a lot of young people who want to play sport for a living. I think to myself every day – even when I’m having a bad day’s training – that I am very fortunate to be in the position I am, given everything I have been through.

“I am grateful for the very privileged position I am in. I try not to take anything for granted and just try and take every day as it comes and live the dream as long as possible.”

Written by Simon Thomas.

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