Callum Kerr


Almost exactly a year ago Richie Simpson was wrapping up a positive first year in senior rugby. Not long out of U-18s, he was enjoying a purple patch of form playing for Ayr 1XV in Tennent’s National 1. A team filled to the brim with exciting young talent was starting to click and although it was too late to earn promotion an optimism was simmering away nicely. In their final game of the season they delivered on that expectation downing Cartha – A team who had the beating of them earlier in the year – 64 points to 7.


(Photo – SNS//Scottish Rugby)

Simpson was at the heart of that coming-of-age side. Fast forward twelve months and the 20-year old has shot through the ranks. A part-time professional contract for the Ayrshire Bulls came for him the summer and he rewarded Pat MacArthur’s faith with a glimmering debutant campaign – securing the starting fly-half role and finishing the season 19-from-19 on the tee. For Richie, it capped off a rise through the Ayr rugby development ranks – from starting with Ayr in primary 4 to earning his place at the top of the ladder.


Opportunity knocked once more and at the turn of the year he was named in the Scotland U20s squad for the Six Nations. He played in four of the five fixtures, being a key influence in running England close and, finally, securing a win for Scotland after a two-year drought.


“I don’t think I felt relief – it was mainly happiness” he remarks, reflecting on ending Scotland U-20s losing run with a win over Wales: “For the older boys who faced the losses last year it would have been a relief but for us coming in we knew what we we’re capable of and earned the right to enjoy it”.


Much of the belief came from the previous week. Despite falling short, Scotland opened their campaign running close an England side smattered with Gallagher Premiership professionals. Even more encouraging was the nature in which the game was played. A free-flowing match at millennium falcon pace – an environment that suited the fleet of foot Simpson to a tee: “You couldn’t have asked for better conditions; great pitch, no wind, lovely night to chuck a ball about. We played freely in the second half and scored more than 20 unanswered points… Just a shame not to get over the line but we showed we weren’t there to make up the numbers”.


It was Richie’s maverick playing style that coined the nickname ‘Rocketman’ in the FOSROC Super6 campaign last year. After a spontaneous turn of pace and line-break at Millbrae, the Scottish Rugby digital team tweeted the clip with the caption ‘Rocketman Richie‘, igniting a new identity – not even a month into his Bulls’ career and he’d earned a reputation for scuttling through gaps invisible to the Millbrae faithful in the stands: “The nickname stuck and followed me into Scotland camp. It could be worse I suppose!”


It’s back to the day job now and when he isn’t at Glasgow Caledonian studying for his finance degree he has the small matter of the FOSROC Super Series Sprint which kicks off this Friday night against Glasgow Warriors A. Richie has been rested following U20s camp so didn’t feature in the two pre-season games but is itching to get back out there: “The boys ran Newcastle Falcons close and got a good win against Stirling. We’re confident. It’s a similar group to the Super6 last year with some new additions so we will carry our form into the sprint and be challenging to win it. I’m looking forward to getting involved and playing my part”.


When asked what the goal for the Bulls is this year it’s clear what Pat McArthur’s message is to his men. Without hesitation or indecision, the answer was: “win it”.



Friday night’s FOSROC Super Series Sprint opener against Glasgow Warriors A is at Millbrae and starts at 19.35.