Burleigh debuts for Scotland

Former Highlander Phil Burleigh debuted for Scotland at the weekend. Photo: Getty Images
Former Highlander Phil Burleigh debuted for Scotland at the weekend. Photo: Getty Images
Not many would have picked it but Phil Burleigh has become the latest Highlander to play international rugby.

Burleigh came on for Scotland to play the final 20 minutes in the side's big win over Australia at Murraryfield on Sunday.

It has been a twisted and lengthy route for Burleigh to play at this level.

The second five-eighth has always been a player who has taken any chance which has come along.

He started off in club rugby in Canterbury but was in a logjam of players there and headed north to Bay of Plenty, making his first-class debut in 2009.

The following year he came into the Chiefs late on and played two games. He was not wanted for Super Rugby in 2011.

Then in 2012 he was included in a Chiefs squad as injury cover for a pre-season game. He flew to Queenstown with the Chiefs but, with injury ravaging the Highlanders squad, he switched teams and ended up playing for the southern franchise against the Chiefs in the resort.

Burleigh impressed and was signed shortly after by the Highlanders. Two weeks later, he went and scored the winning try for the Highlanders against the Chiefs in the opening game of the season.

The son of former Canterbury player Wayne Burleigh went on to play 34 games for the Highlanders over the next three seasons, scoring six tries.

He made his last appearance for the Highlanders in the playoff loss to the Sharks in Cape Town at the end of the 2014 season. He then signed for Edinburgh in the Pro 12 competition and has been playing for that club for the past three years.

Having qualified for Scotland after living in the country for the past 36 months, Burleigh was named in the Scottish squad for the autumn internationals.

The 31-year-old was selected on the reserves bench for the test against the Australians and came on with about 20 minutes left.

He did not score any points but helped Scotland to a record win over Australia, the home team winning 53-24.

He is not the first Highlander to have played for Scotland with backs John Leslie and Brendon Laney and flanker John Hardie playing for the side after ending their careers in New Zealand.

Leslie, Laney and Hardie all qualified for Scotland through immediate family being born in the country.

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