ANDREW Davidson is certain that his move from Glasgow to Edinburgh has been vindicated after just four months and the same number of games with his new team.
The 23-year-old lock left his hometown club in search of regular rugby, and, although he has as yet made only one start and another three appearances off the bench, he is confident of seeing more action during the autumn international window. Perhaps more importantly, he is sure he is already becoming a better player, thanks in large part to what he sees as the higher standards and demands at Edinburgh under head coach Richard Cockerill.
“Just how hard the boys work – I think that’s the main thing,” Davidson said when asked what he had found was the biggest difference between his new and former teams. “Everyone buys into it and everyone works really hard. The intensity in training, the contact aspects, all the things that you expect, are much higher at Edinburgh.
“It’s tough and it’s challenging at times, but you feel better for it and it makes you a better player in the long run. It’s definitely been different. It’s a tough environment, training’s hard, everyone’s at a good level, because Cockers has been there for a few years now, so coming in as a new boy you get to that level quickly. It’s quite a steep learning curve.
“Physically I feel like I’m getting better, and gamewise, just week on week doing the small skills that forwards need to learn. Learning from someone like Cockers and the coaches with their experience is massive, and the boys have been really good as well, so I’m really enjoying it.
Davidson may be “really enjoying it” now, but he admitted that he found life at Edinburgh gruelling at first as he worked hard to live up to the standards that were being demanded of him by the head coach. “After we had four weeks of individual training during the early return-to-play stage, then that first week back [of training in groups] was one of the toughest weeks of training I’ve had as a professional. There was a point at the end of that week where I thought ‘Right, this is what it’s going to be like for the rest of my time here’.
“And Cockers told me that when he met me. He said ‘Look, it’s not going to be easy, but you’re going to be better for it, and you’re going to be playing better for it’.
“So you’ve just got to get your head down and get on with the work. It’s tough, but at the end of the day it’s rewarding.”
The initiative for the move came from Cockerill and SRU performance director Jim Mallinder, and the reasoning behind it was simple: having been at Glasgow, then London Scottish, then Newcastle then Glasgow again, Davidson was at the stage of his career where he needed to play more regularly if he was going to fulfil his evident potential. It was a conclusion that the player himself had already reached.
“I met with Cockers pre-lockdown, and Jim Mallinder at Murrayfield. I was honest with them about how I was feeling at Glasgow, how much I was playing, and they were honest with me about where they would see me in the [Edinburgh] team. It’s also the way Edinburgh play in the forwards, which is evident in how many forwards are in the Scotland team. Cockers obviously does a good job with those guys, so it was a big factor in it.
“I was frustrated at the time, but looking back on it I realise I enjoyed my time at Glasgow. I didn’t play much, it was a good group of guys, but I’m really enjoying Edinburgh. I’m happy with my decision, it’s one that I didn’t take lightly, it wasn’t a rash thing I had all of lockdown to think it over, but it was a good decision.
“That was the first time I’d spoken to Jim and he was honest as well: ‘You want to be playing rugby’. And I said the exact same thing: I want to be playing, developing and enjoying it. Both Cockers and Jim said it was down to me, but I went with what I thought was the best.
“Absolutely no pressure at all, that was from the start when my agent phoned me, it was a bit out of the blue. My agent said ‘Jim Mallinder’s been in contact about a potential move across to Edinburgh and he said there was no pressure, if you don’t want to meet them and if you feel under any pressure, you can back down’.
“But it was simply down to me, and it made the decision easier because there was no exterior pressure coming through. My partner got a job really early on, we had a flat and moved during lockdown.”
Three of Davidson’s four appearances to date for Cockerill’s team have come off the bench, but he looks sure to become a regular starter over the international window, presuming first-choice locks Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis are called up by Scotland. With the national squad due to be announced next week, Saturday’s PRO14 game against Munster will be the last before December in which Edinburgh have their full complement available to them.
“There’s always a lot of forwards in that Scotland squad from Edinburgh, so the chances are there’s going to be quite a few boys away,” Davidson added. “I’m looking forward to hopefully getting an opportunity to get a bit more game time.
“I’ve been in and around the team most weeks since I arrived, which is good, just learning the plays and getting up to speed with everything, so hopefully get a good opportunity to get some decent game time under my belt in those eight weeks. After this Munster game I think we have a week off, then we’re pretty much into the thick of it, so there won’t be much time off.”