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Warrior James Bell Honours Grandfather's Memory As He Flies The Flag For Scotland

Oct 17, 2017

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He may still be getting to grips with the national anthem but don't go doubting Kiwi James Bell's connection to Scotland.

The Warriors rookie, who has represented the New Zealand Maori and spent his entire life in this country, was last week named in Scotland's World Cup squad, qualifying through his late Aberdeen-born grandfather who he is named after.

It is yet another example of international rugby league's loose eligibility rules, which have come in for plenty of criticism of late. But Bell has been well aware of his Scottish heritage since he was a child. 

And you only have to see the way his face lights up when when discussing his "pop" and family roots to see the 23-year-old will be just as passionate as any of his new teammates in the Bravehearts.

"I don't know too much about Scottish history but I know about my pop. And since I've got into this team I'm excited to learn more," Bell told Stuff.

"All the grandkids had a lot to do with him. He was the fun guy of the family, organising all of our family trips. He had a strong Scottish accent and it was hard to understand him but I always knew about the Scottish side of the family. 

"My pop passed away a few years ago now but I bet he would've been really proud."

So too the rest of his family.

Scotland play the Kiwis in the group stages on November 4 in Christchurch but there will be no split loyalties in the Bell household.

"They'll be all behind Scotland from here on in and I'll dedicate everything to that jumper," said Bell.

"If I get selected in that team it would be the highlight of my career. Playing against the black white but also to represent the blue and white.

"It's going to be difficult facing the haka but i'm sure it will give me even more energy."

The World Cup call-up caps a dream year for the no-nonsense back-rower.

After several years in the Warriors system, playing first for the under-20s and then the NSW Cup team, he finally made his NRL debut against Cronulla in July before backing up the following week in Newcastle.

It's a world away from where he was last season, when Bell would still run around with the Papakura Sea Eagles in the Auckland premier competition when he wasn't on Warriors duty.

"And just to look where I am now it's pretty overwhelming," he said. "It was all just a dream last year but now it's come to reality. To get my NRL debut was a huge thing for me and my family but getting to play for Scotland really tops off the year."

While Scotland pulled off a shock draw with the Kiwis last year, injuries have of robbed them of several key players, including NRL regulars Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett and Peter Wallace.

With the star-studded Tongans as well as Samoa also in their pool, Bell acknowledged the Bravehearts' underdog status but said they would enter the tournament with a point to prove.

"We've lost a few experienced players but we've got a young, keen team that's ready to get amongst it all. 

"I know how the Scottish people play, they're pretty tough and they just dig in and that suits my style of footy."

As for the team's anthem, Flower of Scotland, Bell said: "I'm quite embarrassed that I don't know it but I'm definitely working on it. So when that time comes I'll be singing along with the boys."