George Turner’s aim is to break into Edinburgh team

George Turner
George Turner
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As Edinburgh Rugby enter their first full week of pre-season training a player with most to prove is 21-year-old hooker, George Turner.

A member of the Heriot’s side which won the Scottish Cup in April, Turner has spent the last couple of years as an apprentice before recently stepping up to a senior contract.

And, as he tries to make a mark, Turner knows he is in one of the toughest positions for competition.

British and Irish Lion Ross Ford has re-signed, Neil Cochrane returns to his home city from Wasps and Stuart McInally is back from a loan deal with Bristol.

Add in the fact that James Hilterbrand and Aleki Lutui are still on Edinburgh’s books and opportunities will have to be earned.

For Stewart’s Melville reared Turner that is a challenge willingly accepted as he bids for a senior debut that narrowly eluded him last term.

“I was actually chosen in the squad for the visit to Newport when the match was postponed,” he said. “I was hoping to get off the bench and when the match was re-played the Six Nations was over and experienced players had returned.

“So, this year is about putting myself in position to take any chance going while working on throwing to the line-out and developing myself in training.

“The main difference between being an EDP (elite development player) and a senior pro is that until now the emphasis for me has been on trying to gain world class skills.

“Now I’d hope to be more involved in training sessions which can be a way of impressing so as to get in the match-day squads.”

Turner will also be aware of how quickly doors can open.

On last year’s Scotland tour it was Fraser Brown who leapt to cap status despite not starting a game for Glasgow at hooker.

Only last weekend the same applied to Kevin Bryce whose pro experience with Glasgow amounted to 46 minutes when he came off the bench for a debut cap to help a Scotland side who had twice previously lost in Canada (1991 in a non-cap fixture and 2002) before last weekend finally get the better of those opponents on their home soil.

At Heriot’s last season Bryce and Turner drove each other on for much of the season when released to play club rugby.

“The fact Kevin was around meant I often had to share the hooking duties and there were also plenty of times I got game time in the back row,” said Turner. “That was no hardship as I like to get the ball in my hands and attack. Without scrummaging in the front row it is less tiring and I developed my mobility.”

There was also that cup final triumph over Glasgow Hawks to share in. “The final was played on an artificial pitch at Cumbernauld and the surface brought extra pace to the game.

“It really reminded me of when I had a summer in New Zealand (on a Macphail scholarship) as the Kiwis like to play at that sort of tempo all the time. I felt comfortable at the pace and I am well aware that pre-season with Edinburgh is going to be especially tough.”

Head coach Alan Solomons made no secret of the fact last season that Edinburgh’s conditioning had room for improvement. There are no words to describe how hard pre-season is going to be but if we get through it only good will follow.

“In any case, the physical approach suits me just fine. I’m not the biggest (5ft 11in and 104kg [16st 5lb]) but I play rugby to run into people and tackle them. I’ll try to prove myself in that part and see where it takes me.”

Given the experience of fellow hookers Fraser Brown and now Kevin Bryce in the past year, who knows, Turner might even find himself as a bolter on course for next year’s World Cup.

• Former Scotland captain Jonny Petrie, who retired in 2007, has been appointed director of commercial operations with Scottish Rugby.

• Ex-Scotland A centre Calum Macrae is to head up Scotland sevens when Stevie Gemmell resumes a role as head of performance development after the Commonwealth Games. Macrae (former Edinburgh and Melrose) is currently a skills coach with Newcastle Falcons.

• Edinburgh-based Gordon McKie, former Scottish Rugby chief executive, has quit as chairman of Sale Sharks after eight months. McKie had previously been linked with football involvement at both Hearts and Rangers.

• Centre Nick De Luca is the latest to leave Edinburgh Rugby but still deemed good enough to challenge for international honours after a call to Scotland’s squad for Friday’s Test in Argentina. Geoff Cross and Alex Allan have been capped on tour.