A CHILDHOOD dream of playing at the Rugby World Cup is within reach for a former North Berwick High School pupil.

Jamie Lauder grew up in East Lothian but is representing a country more than 9,000 kilometres from his childhood home on North Berwick’s Dirleton Avenue.

A move to Hong Kong seven years ago after graduating from the University of Aberdeen with a law degree has opened the door to playing rugby on an international stage.

One slot remains open for the Rugby World Cup in France next year, with Lauder’s new home up against USA, Portugal and Kenya over the next fortnight.

Lauder spoke to Courier Sport from Dubai last Friday and described the possibility of reaching the Rugby World Cup as “a childhood dream”.

East Lothian Courier: Jamie Lauder is hoping to help Hong Kong reach the Rugby World CupJamie Lauder is hoping to help Hong Kong reach the Rugby World Cup

He said: “I had always dreamt of playing for Scotland when I was a kid.

“You get to a stage or a point in life where you don’t think you will ever make it for Scotland.

“So, you don’t think you will play at the Rugby World Cup.

“To have this chance is massive.”

Hong Kong play Portugal on Sunday before facing the USA next Saturday (November 12).

Finally, they take on Kenya on November 18, with the winner of the round robin tournament joining Wales, Australia, Fiji and Georgia in Pool C at the tournament in September next year.

The USA are favourites, ranked 19th in the world – one place ahead of Portugal, two ahead of Hong Kong and 14 above Kenya.

However, Lauder was confident that his country could spring a surprise.

East Lothian Courier: Jamie Lauder in action for Hong Kong against the Cook IslandsJamie Lauder in action for Hong Kong against the Cook Islands

He said: “We have definitely got a chance; we are not favourites but we have got a decent chance at it.

“The United States have slipped up and we have got Portugal in the first game.

“That will be hard, we have not played them for five or six years but we have beaten them previously.

“We beat Kenya the last time we played them and we know we can beat them.

“We have never played the United States but they have hit a bit of poor form recently.”

Lauder, whose mum and dad, Yvonne and Ken, still live in North Berwick, came through North Berwick RFC’s minis section and captained North Berwick High School’s rugby side before going to university.

In the Granite City, he not only represented the university but also Aberdeen Grammar Rugby.

A move to Hong Kong, where he now represents Hong Kong Football Club, changed his life.

East Lothian Courier: Jamie Lauder (right) poses with a Hong Kong team-mate after the ex-North Berwick man won his first cap in Kuala LumpurJamie Lauder (right) poses with a Hong Kong team-mate after the ex-North Berwick man won his first cap in Kuala Lumpur

He said: “I had a friend out there who introduced me to a few people.

“I had a number of interviews and eventually moved out to Hong Kong.

“The plan was for a year or two and to get work experience and then move back.

“I ended up staying out here and the job opportunities were good.”

Lauder works in cryptocurrency and is joined in the squad by a number of bankers, lawyers, personal trainers and teachers.

Many of the squad, including 30-year-old Lauder, who made his debut against Malaysia in 2017, are working remotely in the Middle East while preparing for the three games.

Now capped 10 times for his country, the scrum-half said: “Every game is like a cup final.

“You cannot afford to slip up.

“If we lose to Portugal then it makes it very hard to get through.

“We have got to approach every game and hopefully go into the Kenya game as strong favourites with a chance of going to the Rugby World Cup, but we are very much focused on Portugal and then we can think about the United States.”