Grant Gilchrist puts hand up for Edinburgh captaincy

Grant Gilchrist stretches at the Edinburgh training camp in the Borders
Grant Gilchrist stretches at the Edinburgh training camp in the Borders
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Grant Gilchrist is keen to further develop captaincy skills with Edinburgh when the rugby season kicks off with a friendly against Leicester Tigers later this month.

The 6ft 8in second row – 24 on Saturday – was a surprise choice to lead Scotland in the last two matches of the summer tour, against Argentina and South Africa.

And while coach Alan Solomons continues to ponder his leadership group, insisting no decisions have been made, Gilchrist was willing to throw his hat in the ring to succeed Greig Laidlaw, who has moved to Gloucester.

Speaking at Edinburgh’s training camp in the Borders, Gilchrist said: “I’m happy to do it (captaincy) if required.

“Above all I want to keep doing my job for Edinburgh the way I have been for the last few years and keep developing my game. I feel there is a lot to work on and improve and I’m keen to do that.”

Last term, Gilchrist was calling line-out options despite relative inexperience, suggesting Solomons saw something special in the former Alloa youngster.

Gilchrist said that opportunity at domestic level helped put him at ease when handed the armband in Argentina for the second part of the tour after the exiles had returned home under an arrangement by which they were unable to perform outwith the agreed international window.

“It was a massive honour to captain Scotland, something I really enjoyed as well. When you first get told you are not sure if it will affect your play and make you more nervous, but I actually enjoyed the extra responsibilities” he said.

If Gilchrist makes a successful fist of things, given the chance, he could lead Scotland into a World Cup following on from Colin Deans, David Sole, Gavin Hastings, Gary Armstrong, Bryan Redpath, Jason White and Al Kellock.

He added: “I’ve come back keen to develop that (captaincy) as an area of my game as well and try to become more of a leader. That is something Alan (Solomons) and the guys are keen for me to do as well, develop those skills along with my rugby.

“The experience I got calling line-outs with Edinburgh meant I was pretty comfortable doing that and especially with Jim Hamilton going down injured in the first game it was all down to me. However, because of experience of running line-outs week-in, week-out it was not daunting.

“I’m not much of a speaker, not one to say a lot on the pitch. Playing under Greig (Laidlaw) and Fordy (Ross Ford) I learned they are the types who, when they do speak, you listen.

“Other than that they get on with their jobs making sure their own house is in order to the best of their ability.

“So, I don’t speak unless I really need to. For me, it is a case of making sure you play well and doing everything you can to make sure the team is best it can be. It did feel a bit surreal when people referred to me as Scotland captain. For a spell it didn’t seem right, almost. But it is something I am very proud of.”

Coach Solomons recently told the Evening News that the target this season is a top-six finish to the Guinness Pro 12 in order to qualify for the next Champions Cup and Gilchrist has set an identical goal.

“We want to improve, be in top half of the league. Top six for (premier) European qualification is huge.” But he added: “We have to turn the games we have been losing by one or two points into wins. We always seemed to be getting edged out, among the top losing bonus point teams in league. Win those games we have been edged out in and we will be sitting in a better position.”

Meanwhile, Gilchrist returned to training much later than some colleagues having played all four Tests on tour, and he is being eased back in with Solomons remarking: “Gilcho’s ankle is still bothering him a bit.”