Alun Walker believes an incentive exists within the Edinburgh Rugby camp to be in prime shape so as to impress when a new forwards coach finally comes on board.
Edinburgh have refused to be rushed into finding a replacement for Tom Smith, who has moved to Lyon.
But hooker Walker, who is expected to start the new season as understudy to Scotland captain Ross Ford while Steve Lawrie, who plays the same position, continues rehab from knee surgery and Under-20 cap George Turner finds his way on to the pro scene, believes that first impressions can be crucial.
Said the one-time Musselburgh and Currie ace who, like Lawrie, has just signed a contract extension that will keep him at Edinburgh for at least another two years: “As a squad, we are just doing the basics at the minute and, hopefully, when the new coach comes in we will be all set to impress.
“Five weeks into pre-season training it’s general stuff that is the focus like working on team defence and handling in attack with emphasis, too, on fitness for running and gym work.” Walker, 21, knows this will be an important season as he looks to build on two starts and 14 appearances from off the bench in the Rabo Direct League.
A first involvement at Heineken European Cup level is obviously a target, too, and he says: “In my first full pro season I did get involved to the extent of giving myself something to build on.
“A real incentive now lies in following the progress made by guys like Matt Scott and Tom Brown who were both in the (national) academy set-up with me and who pushed on to full caps last season. Grant Gilchrist is another who has come through those ranks to start regularly with Edinburgh. They are examples of what can be achieved and with Ross Ford likely to be away with Scotland for spells I have to take any chance that comes my way.
“Everywhere I look I see examples of young players being given a chance at Edinburgh including Dave Denton who was capped in the Six Nations Championship and Stuart McInally being called up to Scotland’s summer tour.
“I know it is harder when you are understudying the Scotland captain who is also a British and Irish Lion but the upside for me is that Ross can expect to be on international duty quite a bit creating an opening at club level.” Steve Lawrie, 28, admits he may miss the start of the campaign but hopes that he will be all the fresher for that delay in the wake of his new deal.
“My knee injury – I damaged the lateral miniscus – is a bit of a slow burner but I aim to be available to play again in September,” he said.
Lawrie made seven league starts last term and was involved for the first half of the European campaign as a substitute including the final quarter of the fightback to beat Racing Metro from 20 points adrift “I was really enjoying the competition I had with Ross (Ford) and particularly an involvement against Racing which I regarded as a once-in-a-lifetime experience given the way events unfolded,” he said.
“Competition will be intense but I’ll be ready for that.” Alongside Edinburgh commitments, Lawrie will be assisting Phil Smith in coaching Heriot’s this season. It is all part of a plan that will eventually take him up to level three coaching standard and he says: “Having a PE degree, I hope to either teach or coach when my playing days are over.”
Now in his second stint at Edinburgh after a spell with English Championship side Doncaster, Lawrie believes he can draw on experience of being coached by some leading lights such as Andy Robinson, Frank Hadden, Todd Blackadder and Lynn Howells. At club level, too, I was fortunate in the qualify of coaching I was exposed to from Gary Callander, the former Scotland captain and hooker, at Watsonians to Kevin Barrie, an ex-hooker, at Currie.
“Another of my former Watsonian coaches, Cammy Mather, reached international level with Scotland so I’ve been trying to take bits and pieces of knowledge from all of them.
“Working with Phil Smith at Heriot’s will put me on familiar territory, too, as he was my national academy coach at one-time. I certainly see a chance to help Heriot’s and progress my coaching but priority has to be Edinburgh Rugby which is my main job in a season where we will be looking to make up for a disappointing Pro 12 campaign.”