Thanks to the SRU for permission to reproduce this article from the Scotland v England programme. Hillfoots are honoured that Jamie is so proud of his roots and having started his journey to Murrayfield at Hillfoots RFC! The whole team will be legends after such a masterful performance in regaining the Calcutta Cup, not least Jamie who made such an impact!
Jamie Bhatti – Taking His Chances
Nothing’s really changed except I play rugby and I’m on the TV sometimes. I’ve never been approached in public or anything like that. It’s just my job. It’s fair to say that Jimmy Bhatti has his feet firmly on the ground. Despite going from BT premiership side Melrose to Glasgow Warriors and the Scotland team in the space of 2 months, life as he knows it remains much the same.
While the loosehead prop isn’t yet getting asked for autographs in the street, he’s certainly enjoying the direction his career has taken.
“I signed my pro contract, have played the majority of games for Glasgow then got involved with Scotland and played in the autumn tests and neither NatWest 6 Nations. It’s all come around quite fast and all at once. But I love it.”
The 25-year-old hasn’t been shy in maximising the opportunities that have come his way. When several of Scotland’s props, including Al Dickinson, Allan Dell and Gordon Reid were ruled out of the autumn tests, the door opened for Bhatti to make his mark. He wore the Scotland jersey for the first time in the opening November fixture against Samoa, coming off the bench, and went on to play in the New Zealand and Australia games that followed.
“It was a really special day,” he said, of his debut. “I’ve always said that any cap is brilliant, but you never forget your first cap. Getting the opportunity to play for your country is everything I’d worked for.”
The road that led to that began at Hillfoot’s Minis, where Bhatti started his youth rugby before moving on to Stirling County where he came through the age grades of Midi and Colts and then the senior side.
“I was primary 3 when I first went to Hillfoots rugby club in Tillicoultry,” he said. “Some boys in my class asked me to go along and that was it. I turned up and I’ve been playing rugby ever since.”
Bhatti then moved to play for Melrose and was named as part of the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy ahead of the 2016-17 season. He says it was a valuable experience, helping him to take the next steps into a professional career.
“Having that transition of going from club level to the Academy setup for a year was important because even when I was in the Academy I was integrated into the pro-team (Glasgow Warriors) quite a lot. During the 2016 Autumn tests when the props were away I was in training with Glasgow and I played several games with them. I don’t think I could have performed as well if I hadn’t been at the Academy.”
Bhatti made his Warriors debut against Canada ‘A’ in Stirling and his competitive debut came later that year against the Scarlets. He went on to sign a full-time contract with the team for the 2017-18 season and hasn’t looked back since. He says that the one thing has changed since going professional is his training regime.
“When I was at Melrose you could train Tuesday, Thursday, play on a Saturday and you’d be fine”, he said. “At the Scotland camp or at Glasgow Warriors your training hard and the physicality and intensity of the games is a lot higher. You need to take care of yourself and the small things count, like stretching and taking fish oils.”
While he is loving every moment of playing rugby for Glasgow and Scotland, there was a time when it looked like it might never happen. By the age of 17 but he was working in an abattoir in Bridge of Allan as well as putting in shifts as a doorman at nightclubs in Falkirk and Stirling. At one stage, he applied to join the police, but didn’t get past the interview stage. How hard was it to hold onto the dream of playing professional rugby?
“It was tough sometimes and I thought had passed me by,” he said. “When I went to Melrose that was kind of my last-ditch effort to try and get into it. I thought I’m going to go to Melrose, I’m going to try and if nothing ever comes of it I’ll find myself a job somewhere else, but luckily it’s happened for me.”
Some of his opportunities have come through other players being injured and he says that it is a harsh but inevitable aspect of professional rugby.
“People get injured, and other people get their opportunities and make the most of it,” he said. “At Glasgow, Ollie Keeble got injured and Alex Allen had an injury and the start of the season as well say I was the only loose head prop that was fit and I took my opportunity and I’ve played the majority of games this season for Glasgow. It’s a horrible thing but it is part and parcel of the game.”
With five caps under his belt, including two so far in this year’s NatWest 6 Nations, Bhatti says that he is continually looking to improve and despite often being referred to as being ‘young for a prop’, he believes that experience is more important than age.
“Playing a lot and gaining experience is what’s helped me personally,” he said. “When you’re playing and training a lot you pick up the small things in terms of technique and that includes what the props I’m playing against doing.”
Bhatti ‘s proud of his roots and after the autumn tests he went back to Hillfoot’s minis to talk to the kids and encourage them to keep on trying to find success in whatever it is they enjoy, no matter what setbacks they encounter.
“It was good to go back, and there are still boys there that I was in the minis with who are playing for the 1st XV now,” he said. “It’s good for the club to be able to say they’ve had someone that came through and gone on to play for their country. I’d always said that when I got my Scotland jersey I’d give it back to the club where I first picked up the ball and it meant a lot to me to do that.”
This article appeared in the Scotland v England Programme – Reproduced with permission of Scottish Rugby.
Thanks to John Reid, who posted this great picture on Facebook!
Winners of the Crieff P7 Tournament, about 2003. Jamie Bhatti back left, Grant Carmichael next to him, Rainer Kennedy front second left, Corey Reid holding the trophy and Lewis Coutts front second right – let us know who the others are!
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