Talented young Castleford player Callum McLelland has switched codes and will take his chance in rugby union after rejecting the offer of a contract extension with his hometown rugby league club.
The 18-year-old half-back was highly rated by Castleford Tigers, but it has now been confirmed that he has become Scotland’s new SQ programme’s first signing after joining Edinburgh Rugby.
The Scottish Qualified programme (SQ), which replaced the previous Exiles programme in October this year, has broadened the network of scouts across England and abroad to identify players eligible to play for Scotland living outside its borders.
McLelland joins Edinburgh Rugby from Super League team Castleford where he was a member of their academy having joined the club in August 2016.
He played rugby union up to the age of 13 before focusing on league, representing the Lock Lane ARLFC club and attending Castleford Academy School.
McLelland captained England U16s in league and recently played for the England Academy in their two-match series against France in October, scoring a match winning drop-goal in a 19-18 victory in the opening game.
He qualifies for Scotland through a grandfather born in East Ayrshire.
Scottish Rugby’s technical director Stephen Gemmell said: “We have had a very positive response to the launch of the new SQ Programme and are delighted to be able to attract a young talented rugby league player to Scottish Rugby.
“We have been monitoring Callum through our programme, utilising Alan Tait’s expertise in Rugby League, for some time and it’s great he has taken the opportunity to sign for Edinburgh Rugby and continue his career development in union, in Scotland.”
Tigers head coach Daryl Powell said: “Callum had one year left on his contract and was offered an opportunity with the Scottish SQ programme that he felt he couldn’t turn down.
“We made an offer to retain him but had to accept his wishes on this occasion. Having declined an extension from us we felt it was best for both Callum and the club that we allowed him to take up this offer.”
“We will use the fee that we received for Callum to retain our best young players as this is a huge focus for Castleford Tigers at the moment. I would like to wish Callum all the best with this new opportunity.”
Edinburgh Rugby head coach, Richard Cockerill said: “Callum is a young and gifted stand-off so it will be exciting to see him continue his development as he makes the switch from league into union.”