While Edinburgh Rugby continue to sign a sizeable quota of foreign players to ensure adequate cover when Scottish representative duties arise – 15 at the last count, including an Argentinian trialist – at least one up-and-comer exemplifies the importance of also developing strong community roots.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, a 20-year-old scrum half, was first attracted to rugby by a man known throughout the Capital grassroots scene as a pied piper for prospective props, scrum halfs, full backs etc.
Making it clear his first start for Edinburgh against Scarlets at Murrayfield last Friday might not have happened but for the diligent groundwork of Bill Smith, a former winner of the Spirit of Scottish Rugby award and Forrester club development officer, Hidalgo-Clyne said: “Hopefully I am helping to show you can come from any club and do well. You don’t have to have everything laid on for you.”
It was while at Corstorphine Primary School, which subsequent England world cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward attended for a spell in the 1960s when his father was on RAF duty at Turnhouse, that Hidalgo-Clyne was bitten by the rugby bug.
“Bill Smith came along to do an introductory session and a few of us went to a field across the road for after-school training,” he explained. “My brother, Jose, who is two years older than me, also got involved and that provided further encouragement to get along to the Forrester club. I played at Forrester (currently in East Division Two) from about primary three until second year high school when I was awarded a scholarship by Merchiston Castle.
“Rugby was not natural to me, as I was born in Granada, Spain, where I lived until the age of three. So, it was good to get an opportunity to try the game and I loved it straightaway.
“Fortunately, Bill Smith not only pushed me as a player, but saw something in me ability-wise and coached me.
“I’ve been back at Forrester a couple of times and I plan to pop into the club again soon. I think it’s important that players go back to their roots and, as well as Forrester, I was helped on my journey to the Edinburgh team by the coaches at Merchiston. Just as I was approaching first team level, Mark Appleson moved to Edinburgh Academy, but his successor, James Boyd, was a big help, too, as was director of sport, Richard Charman.
“They all played a part in getting me into the Scotland age-group and sevens set-up.”
Another break for Hidalgo-Clyne, who made a debut in the opening RaboDirect PRO12 fixture of the season in the daunting surroundings of Musgrave Park, Munster, and followed up with immediate appearances from off the bench against Dragons and Ospreys, was a Macphail Scholarship to New Zealand last summer.
“I went out there because I hadn’t played too much at nine (scrum half), so it was great to get good-quality games under my belt,” he continued. “It was obviously a different type of rugby which was great to experience, and to have coaching from some of the best in New Zealand was massive.”
The fruits of that exercise look set to continue being realised on Sunday when Edinburgh continue their league campaign at Cardiff.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons has revealed that an experiment which sees A international back row Stuart McInally converting to hooker could reach fruition in the new year.
McInally has still to play a competitive match at any level in his new role, but it is expected a minor knee problem will clear soon, allowing him to start the switch. Asked if injuries to a current back rower Ross Rennie, at a time when Mike Coman and Cornell du Preez have still to arrive from abroad, might cause him to reconsider McInally’s immediate future, Solomons said: “I think there is a lot of merit in what Scott Johnson (Scotland coach) is trying to do. “Stuart is keen to do what I have seen done often in the past and I think it is going to be successful.
“Stuart has got to go through all the middle processes then maybe in the new year he will be available to us. It’s possible he could be available by then and we’ll see how it goes. Obviously, he has to get some game time under his belt.
“Scott has been very careful how he has approached things. He has made absolutely sure he has ticked all the boxes, taking the safety of the player into consideration. It will be positive for Stuart, for Edinburgh and for Scotland.”
Solomons has also paid tribute to Tim Visser, who notched his 50th league try at Ospreys two weeks ago, but missed the recent clash with Scarlets due to a head knock. “Tim is an outstanding attacking wing, an outstanding finisher. He’s big, strong, powerful and quick. It was a good try, but Sean Kennedy deserved credit for setting it up,” said Solomons in a reference to another Edinburgh scrum half prospect.