Damien Hoyland doesn’t need to look far for tips on how to handle Glasgow’s fearsome 6ft 5in, 19-stone wing Taqele Naiyaravoro at BT Murrayfield – a DVD of last weekend’s match would do the job.
Edinburgh’s watertight defence kept the Fiji-born Australia cap shackled in the 23-11 win which sees the holders head into the return encounter – back at the national stadium due to Scotstoun being waterlogged – with confidence.
Tom Brown’s crunching tackle on Naiyaravoro in the dying minutes protected the hard-won 12-point lead the home side had carved out but cost the left wing his chance to play this evening as his bravery resulted in a shoulder injury.
Hoyland steps in and admits that the performance of Brown has set him a high benchmark.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. I like to tell people I’m 6ft 2in but I’m probably closer to 5ft 9in or something,” joked the 21-year-old.
“I haven’t looked into it too much, to be honest, I’ve just focused on my own game, and I’ll tackle like I would normally tackle. Tom did very well against him (Naiyaravoro). He put in a brilliant try-saving tackle when he smashed him into touch. Hopefully, I can try to do something similar.
“To some degree, there’s pressure on me, because it’s a game I’ve got to perform in because of the competition here. Tom’s been playing exceptionally well, Dougie [Fife] has been playing well, and there are others as well, so there’s pressure on everyone right now because we all want to be in the squad.”
Hoyland is part of a growing band of homegrown talent breaking through into a team which is developing a more local flavour than it perhaps had in the early part of Alan Solomons’ time in charge of the club. This evening’s opponents Glasgow have made much of their bond with the city and Hoyland feels the same things is happening in the Capital, with the likes of himself, Brown, Fife, Matt Scott, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Chris Dean and Stuart McInally all proud to play for a club they once supported from the stands.
Hoyland agrees that this gives an added edge to the derby showdown. “Absolutely, 100 per cent.” he said. “There’s a few, especially the younger guys coming in, all Edinburgh boys and we all feel a massive affiliation with the club. Me, living here my whole life, there’s definitely some kind of emotional attachment, certainly going into this week. It’s always been a massive rivalry and I always used to watch when I was younger. It’s pretty surreal to be involved in it.
“I remember watching the likes of Mike Blair [when he was with Edinburgh], Colin Gregor playing for Glasgow, Phil Godman, Chris Paterson, Simon Webster, back when they had the wacky strips and all that.”
After starring for Scotland on the sevens circuit last season, 2015 has proven to be a breakthrough year for the James Gillespie’s educated former Boroughmuir player. He received a surprise call-up to Vern Cotter’s extended World Cup training pool and spent the summer training with the Scotland squad, earning his first cap in Turin when he came off the bench in the warm-up Test against Italy.
He said: “To know I’ve had one cap gives me confidence, but I don’t want to see that the end of the story, I’ve got to push for greater things, and more of them.
“To do that I’ve got to perform to my best in all these games so it’s just about there and then on the day, bring my A game whenever it counts. The past doesn’t really matter.
“It feels different to last year because I was away with the sevens virtually the whole season, and this is a completely new structure for me. But, without a doubt, that pre-season with Scotland gave me massive confidence and I’ve now been fortunate enough to play quite a few games. I understand my roles and I’m confident in my ability playing for the team. Without that tough pre-season, I might not have been in the position I was to get the games I have had.”
Having enjoyed a good run in the Edinburgh team at the start of the season, Hoyland’s campaign was stalled by a leg injury but he is delighted to be back and relishing a crack at the Guinness PRO12 champions and the chance to celebrate some silverware.
He said: “It’s awesome, although it was frustrating watching the game last week because when you watch a game you want to play, get your hands on the ball, and when our big ball carriers make ground it creates the space for me.
“The injury was very frustrating, but that happens in rugby, especially at pro level. I feel I’m back to the physical strengths I was at earlier in the season.”