Nathan Fowles hopes to keep hold of Edinburgh No.9 jersey

Nathan Fowles, above, is rivalling Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
Nathan Fowles, above, is rivalling Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
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Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill said a few weeks ago that his preference would be for a “fairly settled” half-back partnership, which has pitched Nathan Fowles and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne into battle for regular wearing of the No.9 jersey.

Last season the pivotal pairing was in continual flux with Duncan Weir and Jason Tovey swapping around the No.10 role while Fowles, Hidalgo-Clyne and Sean Kennedy, who has had injuries pre-season but will soon re-enter the fray, jostling away at scrum-half.

Cockerill has put his faith in Scotland internationalist Weir over his Welsh rival Tovey so far but, after starting with Hidalgo-Clyne in the first two Guinness Pro14 matches, it is Fowles who has been selected for the losses to Treviso and Scarlets.

Injuries, the physical toll of the modern game and international windows, mean that very rarely can a player expect to occupy the same jersey for the whole season so long as they can stay fit. It will be interesting to see how the situation develops in the coming months as logic would dictate that a confident and familiar pairing at nine and 10 could only help Edinburgh develop the kind of consistency that has been missing for so long.

We will learn today, when Cockerill names his team for the trip to Leinster tomorrow night, whether Fowles has kept hold of the starting slot, but he is keen to stress the positives of the situation.

“It is good, it is competitive which is a healthy environment to be in,” said the 24-year-old. “We are pushing each other in training every day and every week, which is a good thing for the team. We have the two of us champing at the bit every week to get into the team which is good and I am embracing it.

“Sean will be back too and it is not just in my position. You look across the board and there is a lot of competition for places. That is really good for the club to have that headache around selection. It is positive for the team.”

Hidalgo-Clyne is the man with the international experience having nine caps to his name, and is seen as, perhaps, the more dynamic and capable of sparking something in attack, with Fowles offering a bit more solidity of service.

That said, the lad from Rochdale who came up through the Sale academy but is Scottish-qualified through an Edinburgh grandfather, showed with his man of the tournament exploits at last year’s Melrose Sevens that he too has pace and skill in his locker.

“I see [my service] as a big key point, one of my strengths,” continued Fowles. “I do work really hard on my core skills, my kicking and my passing.

“It is a non-negotiable for someone in my position – I have to get that the backline moving. It is a big thing and I pay quite a lot of attention to it.

“We are different players. Sam is a very good at some things and can create something out of nothing. He has that a bit of X-factor about him as well. There are parts of his game that I am not quite as good at, and there are parts of my game where he is not as good as me. It is a nice balance to have for the team.”

Fowles insisted that the two recent defeats had not shaken the squad’s belief that they can get moving up the Conference B table and make one of the top-three play-off places come the season’s end.

“Yes, we all believe that. We are not here just to make up the numbers,” he said. “We are all competitive people and would not be in this job otherwise. We all aspire to be there and I think it is something we can achieve.

“We have a lot more in us. It is an exciting prospect. We are only four games into the season and we are learning each week, working really hard of the pitch and on the pitch to get better as a team.

“That is what we have got to do. As long as we put it out there week on week and keep getting better, that is all we can ask of each other. Then we will see where it gets us.”