Edinburgh prospect Robin Hislop doesn’t turn 21 until February but, in a rugby context, his coming of age arrived at the weekend.
With two men in the sin-bin, Edinburgh were looking down a barrel against European champions Leinster in front of a crowd of 17,000 Dubliners.
Cometh the hour and prop forward Hislop stepped from the bench to replace the first of those yellow carded, John Yapp, and not only helped his side resist a strong Leinster scrummage surge but ensured they continued to hold out when second row Sean Cox also found himself spending ten minutes on the sidelines.
It was a major statement from the player, who is now being tipped by many to go into the full international side and whose dad, Brian “Bomber” Hislop, represented Scotland B out of the Langholm club in the early 1980s.
“We didn’t win in Dublin but our performance was a lot better than the previous year and we survived with 13 men for a spell and came away with a bonus point for finishing within a single score (16-22),” said Hislop who recalled his call to arms: “I was warming up behind the posts when I saw Yappy being carded and I thought ‘Okay, I’m going to be on here’.
“Fortunately, Ross Ford was able to talk me through that crucial period when Leinster were attacking us and also when Coxy was off.”
It was the 13th time Hislop had entered the fray for Edinburgh and his goal is now a debut start.
“I feel much more comfortable about turning out for Edinburgh compared with a year ago when I would sit on the bench feeling very nervous.”
Additionally, with 17 Scotland Under-20 caps – had he not missed a couple of Six Nations games through being required by Edinburgh last season he’d have finished just one short of colleague Stuart McInally’s record haul – there is every chance of adding an A cap to those honours at the earliest opportunity. “Like any boy, I’d love to play for my country but first of all I have to try to prove myself with Edinburgh.
“The next step would obviously be a first start and hopefully I am moving closer.
“The longest stint I have actually had for Edinburgh is 40 minutes away to Aironi but I feel I am learning all the time from playing against some really experienced props.”
Indeed, Hislop’s cv already includes shifts against the likes of Cardiff, Leinster, Ospreys, and Glasgow while he has been able to lock horns on an individual basis with Munster’s John Hayes (105 Ireland caps) and John Afoa (36 times an All Black prop) while facing Ulster.
It is worth noting that, allowing for the switch to a professional regime, Hislop appears to be well ahead of some of Scotland’s most notable props in development terms. For example Iain Milne was first capped at 22, David Sole at 23, Sandy Carmichael at 25 and Ian McLauchlan at 26.
However, there is no chance of Hislop getting ahead of himself.
He said: “My dad might be my biggest fan but he is also my biggest critic and not all of his comments are positive. Dad watches Edinburgh games mostly on television but travels up from our family farm in Langholm when I turn out for Boroughmuir.
“Of course, I want to be playing regularly with Edinburgh where it is a step up in terms of intensity and a lot more physical. But going along to Boroughmuir is really valuable and not just for the game time.
“With the experience I’m getting in the Rabo Direct Pro 12, people are entitled to expect a bit more leadership from me at club level and that is a good kind of pressure.
“The big difference this year, though, is that when my opportunity comes I am not just going out to do a job but to try to impress.
“Getting that first Edinburgh start really is a big goal and I want to put my hand up every time although, had I not been injured last season, I would have had a start against Connacht.
“I’m not doing any studies which leaves rugby as my main occupation and, when I see Liam Gill, who played for Australia Under-20s against Scotland Under-20s at my second World Championships this summer, now getting a full cap (at flanker) I realise even more how that competition has been a good experience for me.”