Ben Muncaster pays tribute to the influence of ‘Uncle Sam’

BEN MUNCASTER laughs when Sam Torrance’s name is mentioned. It’s clear it never occurred to the 20-year-old Edinburgh rower that his relationship with one of Scotland’s greatest ever golfers – who played in eight consecutive Ryder Cups between 1981 and 1995, and who captained the glory team at the Belfry in 2002 – could be of interest to the outside world.

But the affable Muncaster doesn’t need a second invitation to sing the praises of a man he readily calls an idol. “We’re related, he’s on my dad’s side,” says former Scotland Under-18, 19 and 20 side, from North Berwick, attended rugby school on a scholarship from 14 years (period during which he was a member of the Leicester Tigers Academy) and who joined Edinburgh straight out of school in the summer or 2020 (with a one-year academy and a one-year full-time contract ).

“I don’t know what the relationship is [with Torrance] is, but we are much closer than on paper. I always called him ‘Uncle Sam’,” adds Muncaster. “I consider him a lot of an idol. He’s so, so cool.

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“I was actually with him when he watched his very first rugby game at Murrayfield. It was in 2018 against England and we beat them. That was when Finn RussellI passed it. When we were singing ‘Flower of Scotland’ he had tears running down his face. It was very inspiring. He’s a wonderful man.

“He has a really cool setup in his house. He has this mini-pub and the stools are his Ryder Cup bags. It’s so, so cool.

Although Muncaster is playing it down, he is clearly no cup between tee and pin, and he is quick to recognize the role his golfing backcountry has played in his development of rugby.

“I’m just above the simple numbers. i’m about 11 years old [handicap]. I wouldn’t really call myself a good golfer,” he says. “It helps my rugby, to be honest. In golf, if you drop a bad shot [inside] your head you will be terrible throughout the game. You have to completely forget a bad shot, and it’s the same in rugby. If you make a mistake in a game, you must erase it from your memory and continue with the next job.

Muncaster had the opportunity to play 18 holes in Durban last Sunday as one of the options available to Edinburgh players on their day off following the capital side’s win over Sharks on Saturday after- noon, but recklessly chose an alternative option instead.

“I love golf, being a boy from North Berwick, but Pierre Schoéman had organized dives with caged sharks,” he explains. “We had to get up at 5 a.m. after the game and then we traveled for about an hour and a half in this minibus. We then stayed there for two hours before they canceled it because the sea was too rough. It was not a very pleasant experience. There was a good chat on the bus but the shark diving didn’t really pay off!

On the rugby front, he’ll face tougher opposition for his place in the Edinburgh squad when they run in until the end of the season, but the 6ft 3in, 17½ ​​Muncaster has secured himself through a series of powerful and self-confident. performance than rowers who have missed the last two months of club service due to international duty or injury – Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury, Nick Haining, Viliame Mata and Luke Crosbie — now have another serious contender to face in their fight for a starter jersey.

“I want to keep playing, that’s all I want to do – get that playing experience,” Muncaster said when asked about his plans for the rest of the season. “It’s getting closer to the playoffs, important games. There will be knockout matches in the Challenge Cup. We play Pau in the round of 16 and I want to play these matches. I hope it will be a great experience. I know that some boys will come back from their injuries, but I want to always be in the game.

“I feel in some ways I’ve proven myself. But when those boys come back it will be better in training because we’ll be competing for those positions. Obviously the back line in Edinburgh is notoriously competitive, but I want keep playing for Edinburgh because I love it.

The first – if selected – will be the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday. “When the Lions played the Ospreys there was a lot of ball in play…they just ran around them,” he says when asked about the South African franchise’s 45-15 win over the Welsh region on Friday last night,

“They [Lions] have the most offloads in the URC, so we’ll try to slow their ball down. Lots of Northern Hemisphere teams have done this and when it worked it massively stopped South African teams. We want to face physically, of course, but also manage the game at a good level.

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Charles P. Patton