Edinburgh Rugby’s Sam Hidalgo-Clyne has been backed to rediscover his best form in the coming season by one of Scotland’s most famous scrum-halves.
Hidalgo-Clyne turned 24 earlier this month and, along with Sean Kennedy and Nathan Fowles, gives new Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill good options in the number nine jersey, starting on Friday at Meggetland in a pre-season friendly against Sale Sharks.
Former Merchiston Castle pupil Hidalgo-Clyne has had an up and down couple of years since he burst onto the scene and made his full Scotland debut in early 2015.
And Mike Blair, currently a member of the Glasgow Warriors and Scotland coaching teams, believes that Hidalgo-Clyne has a lot to offer and will be key for Edinburgh during the Guinness PRO14 campaign that begins on September 1.
Blair, who spent ten years at the Capital club as well as representing Scotland and the British & Irish Lions, said: “We are very lucky in Scotland at the minute with the quality of scrum-halves that we have pushing each other on.
“At Edinburgh Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Sean Kennedy and Nathan Fowles really are a trio of good number nines and I am excited to see how they get on this season.
“Sam was in amazing form for Edinburgh a few years back which saw him force his way into the Scotland squad and although he didn’t get as much game time as he would have liked, he did go to a World Cup back in 2015 and he will have learnt a lot from that experience.
“He did really well to battle his way back into the Scotland reckoning before the summer tour and it was really unlucky for him that he suffered a hamstring injury in camp before we headed off to Singapore.
“He will have been gutted about that, but he is a strong character and really talented so I expect him to flourish under Richard Cockerill and Duncan Hodge at Edinburgh going forward.”
Hidalgo-Clyne’s Edinburgh colleague Kennedy was called up to replace him on the Scotland tour and although the uncapped man did not get on the pitch, Blair was happy with the way the 26-year-old dealt with the step up.
Blair said: “Sean worked very hard in Singapore, Australia and Fiji and worked well with Ali Price and Henry Pyrgos.
“He is a very quick-thinking player who can spark attacks off well and it is good for Scotland to know that we have guys like Sean and Sam waiting in the wings to put pressure on Greig Laidlaw, Ali and Henry for the scrum-half spot.”
While Price and Pyrgos were on extended leave following the summer tour, it gave Blair a chance to work with another up-and-coming scrum-half who hails from the Capital.
Currie’s Charlie Shiel, 19, is a member of the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy and in recent weeks he has been training with the Warriors extended squad to gain experience.
Blair said: “It has been great having time to work with Charlie and he came in on a high after doing well for Scotland under-20s in the World Championships.
“He is a strong scrum-half who is not scared of hard work and it was good to expose him to the pro game.”
• Mike Blair was speaking after he was named as The Rugby Force ambassador to Cartha Queens Park as part of the Royal Bank of Scotland RugbyForce initiative. The grassroots partnership between Royal Bank of Scotland and Scottish Rugby is designed to give grassroots rugby clubs access to resources to become more sustainable organisations.