Edinburgh stand-off Phil Burleigh is sure 18-year-old Blair Kinghorn has a big future ahead of him after being selected for his first professional start against Connacht in Galway this evening.
Coach Alan Solomons has selected the Scotland Under-20 stand-off to play at full-back in Ireland and Burleigh has no doubts that the youngster is a star in the making.
“Blair has a lot of potential, we just need to figure out what position he is going to play,” said the 29-year-old former Otago Highlander.
“He is very skilful and has a big boot on him – he can kick the ball 20 metres further than me I think. He is level headed and it is an opportunity for him. He has a lot of confidence and that seems to be building week on week.”
The former Edinburgh Academy pupil came off the bench for his pro debut in last weekend’s 19-11 loss to Zebre in Italy and has done enough to convince Solomons that he deserves a place in the starting team.
While at school, football was Kinghorn’s main interest and he was involved with the Hearts academy but rugby came more into focus from under-16 level onwards and the teenager has gone on to represent Scotland through the age grades and was involved in the Under-20 World Cup earlier in the year.
Young centre Chris Dean returns from injury at outside centre this evening as Edinburgh look to get back to winning ways after losing their unbeaten start to the season in Parma. Dean is partnered by Sam Beard who comes back into the mix at 12.
Burleigh retains his spot at stand-off with Scotland scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne moving up from the bench to start in the No 9 jersey.
In the pack, captain Mike Coman leads the team on the blindside, Roddy Grant returns at openside and Nasi Manu keeps his No 8 berth from last week.
Proud Kiwi Burleigh will have his mind solely on the job in Galway this evening but admitted it would be strange preparing for the match while his nation is pitted against old rivals Australia in the Rugby World Cup final.
“It is going to be tight, the old Trans-Tasman battle,” he said. “Obviously I hope that the All Blacks win, but it is going to be tight as Aussie are playing pretty well.
“It would be good to see great servants to the world game like Dan [Carter] and Richie [McCaw] go out on a high. I’m not sure when I will get to see it but I think I will struggle to avoid hearing the score before I do.”
Connacht only had two players away with Ireland at the World Cup and prop Nathan White returns to the bench this evening. Centre Robbie Henshaw, however, is injured and misses out.
Coach Pat Lam said: “Obviously Nathan returning is a big boost for us. After a busy few games in the World Cup, Robbie is not far off and we should see him next week against Treviso.”
CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran; Darragh Laeder, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Aly Muldowney, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon (c), N Fox-Matamua, Eoghan Masterson. Subs: Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Nathan White, Quinn Roux, Eoin McKeon, Ian Porter, Rory Parata, Niyi Adeolokun
EDINBURGH: Blair Kinghorn; Damien Hoyland, Chris Dean, Sam Beard, Will Helu; Phil Burleigh, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Rory Sutherland, Neil Cochrane, John Andress, Anton Bresler, Fraser McKenzie, Mike Coman (c), Roddy Grant, Nasi Manu. Subs: George Turner, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Alex Toolis, Cornell Du Preez, Sean Kennedy, Dougie Fife, Nick McLennan
At the Sportsground, Galway, tonight 6.45pm