Edinburgh Rugby assistant coach Steve Scott has backed the club’s up-and-coming young players to step in and do a good job while more experienced campaigners are away with Scotland at the Rugby World Cup.
Almost a full team – Allan Dell, Al Dickinson, WP Nel, Ross Ford, Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis, David Denton, Hamish Watson, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Matt Scott, Dougie Fife, Damien Hoyland and Greig Tonks – are training with Scotland for the event which takes place in September and October.
While not all 14 are likely to make Vern Cotter’s final squad of 31, it is likely that a large majority will and it is at that stage the fringe players will get their change with Edinburgh in the Guinness PRO12. Scotland Under-20 players Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury look set to be involved while BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy players Jack Cosgrove, Jake Kerr, Ally Miller and Ben Robbins could also figure.
The PRO12 starts on the weekend of September 5 – the same weekend Scotland play France in their final World Cup warm-up match – and Scott said: “If you look back two or three years we did not have the depth of squad that we have now – you need depth if you are to compete in competitions like we were doing last year.
“The fringe players who came in last year when required did a great job especially in the forward pack where we had some top quality players missing. We won some big games with these players out, so that is a big positive – we have also taken confidence from reaching the European [Challenge Cup]final.
“This year pre-season is structured a bit differently and there will be lot of opportunities for guys to grab their chance in the first team while we have guys away at the World Cup.
“Alan [Solomons] said from the start that the Edinburgh job was going to be a work in progress and he needed to build things up. He has been true to his word and he has built a club through the young players like Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Ben Toolis, Hamish Watson and others.
“I think this season we will see the likes of Chris Dean and Damien Hoyland coming through as well as other young players and Academy prospects – and Alan has a real plan for them.”
Meanwhile, Scott believes that the reason Hamish Watson has become such a good operator in the seven jersey for Edinburgh, and is now knocking on the door of regular Scotland action, is because he has been pushed hard by Roddy Grant.
Edinburgh stalwart Grant is seen by many as very unlucky to have never picked up a Scotland cap himself – and Scott is just delighted to have them both at the club.
“Hamish is a phenomenal athlete. His work rate is second to none and he certainly has a chance with Scotland. I think his progress has been helped by having someone as good as Roddy Grant in the same position as him at Edinburgh,” Scott, a former Scotland cap himself, explained. “Roddy is a model pro and a very consistent performer and it is great to see Hamish learning from him and growing as a player too.”
Having finished eighth in the PRO12 in 2014/15 and reached the Challenge Cup final Scott believes even better times are ahead for the club.
“I have been lucky enough to have been around good coaches over the years and Alan has bags of experience so the last couple of years have been brilliant for me. He is a very determined man who knows what he wants from his players and these are exciting times.”
Scott, 40, was speaking after it was announced he would be one of eight coaches to undertake a United Kingdom Coaching Certificate (UKCC) Level 4 qualification.
Other local coaches involved are Ben Fisher (Boroughmuir), Phil Smith and Stevie Lawrie (both Heriot’s).