Blair Kinghorn thriving at Toulouse after “stagnant” feeling at Edinburgh

He's getting ready for a massive Champions Cup semi-final against Harlequins

Blair Kinghorn Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Blair Kinghorn thriving at Toulouse Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.u

ADD Blair Kinghorn’s name to the long list of those who have enjoyed the restorative benefits of time spent in the south of France.

The Scotland full-back, presumably, didn’t leave Edinburgh for the weather, wine or general ambience of Toulouse but, as he looks ahead to tomorrow’s (Sunday’s) Champions Cup semi-final against Harlequins, there is little doubt that the switch has proved so far to be a reinvigorating one.

Kinghorn admits he had become “stagnant” after almost a decade spent with his hometown club, a situation that, with appealing candour, he admits was largely down to his own complacency rather than the fault of anyone else.


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When Toulouse then offered to buy out his contract late last year, it was a relatively simple decision to make and so far the 27-year-old has been more than vindicated with his choice.

Holding his own in the company of elite-level stars including Antoine Dupont, Roman Ntamack and Thomas Ramos, the Scot is yet to taste defeat in a Stade Toulousain shirt.

He has enjoyed the mental stimulus, too, of having to impress new coaches, to regularly demonstrate his worth just to feature on a matchday, something that was rarely the case at Edinburgh.

He said: “I’m out my comfort zone but I feel like it’s a good thing, for sure. I felt like I got a little bit stagnant over the last couple of years, not really excelling in the way that I should have.

“I just feel that I could have been better than I was. That’s probably a bit on me as well, not working hard enough potentially, not having to fight week in, week out for a spot in the Edinburgh team. Potentially that made me a little bit complacent.

“I feel that having a change, getting into an environment where the coaches don’t know you, you have to prove yourself all over again. It’s not a kick up the bum but it’s a sink or swim moment. I didn’t know what to expect, really, especially with a club of this magnitude. It’s very exciting but it’s also a pressure, I suppose, when you first join.

“I didn’t want to just sit and be a good player. I wanted to move, improve and become a great player. So I feel that the move here has accelerated my development.”

 

 

Kinghorn’s personality meant he was never likely to be overawed by sharing a dressing room with some of world rugby’s biggest names and he has found his new teammates to be refreshingly grounded.

“It’s just like a normal shed,” he shrugs. “The boys just have banter and get about their day. Nothing crazy or different to what I’m used to. [Dupont] is just another bloke. He’s obviously incredibly talented and works very hard.

“He’s probably the greatest player in the world but he’s just one of the team, one of the lads. He doesn’t get treated any differently and doesn’t want to be treated any differently. He just goes about his work, turns up, leaves, plays at the weekend. Just a normal bloke. Speaks good English as well.”

That’s been handy for Kinghorn as he continues to work on his French, grateful to have England international Jack Willis around as a translator.

“We have our calls in French and you pick them up pretty quickly,” he reveals. “I’m having lessons [doing an hour or two a week]. I’m picking things up. I understand quite a lot if people speak slowly. When people are speaking in slang and speak fast, it is tough. I feel like I’m making steps and I feel like in a while I’ll be sound. Team meetings are quite funny. All the foreign guys sit up the back and there’s little translations.

“Jack messaged me when I was coming over here and he’s a really good guy. UK banter is probably different to other cultures’ banter so we get each other. I think he was quite happy about that. He’s a really nice guy and he’s helped me settle in a lot here. He speaks very good French now so I need to catch up with him.”

Being able to escape back to France after a disappointing end to the Six Nations was also a relief but Kinghorn insists he remains as committed to the Scotland cause as he was before.

“Absolutely,” he adds. “I feel like this is only going to develop me into being a better player for Scotland. The stuff I learn here is going to help me excel at my own game and then I can bring that, hopefully with some good form for Scotland.

“I don’t think it will be difficult. It’s something I’ll have to get used to, travelling back and forward during a campaign, but my commitment is still there for the Scottish jersey.”

First and foremost, however, there is the chance to help Toulouse into a Champions Cup final and with it the prospect of becoming European champion, a thought that still feels a bit surreal to him.

“It would be mental I reckon! Something if you’d asked me a year ago that I thought potentially would never happen. It would be awesome to play in the semi-final and if we win just keep on trucking.

“It’s a massive European knockout game, something that I’ve not been able to play in in my career. The feeling at the club is that everyone wants to win and progress. The mentality here is that everyone wants to win trophies. You do feel the pressure a little bit – everyone expects you to win, but it’s a good pressure to have and it makes everyone better.”


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About Graeme Macpherson 42 Articles
Graeme Macpherson is a freelance sports writer who covers rugby for a number of outlets.

20 Comments

  1. Joie de vivre in the South of France. He’s there on merit and merit alone. Obviously less stultifying than being in Edinburgh. Good on him and I jope ge has a good final, assuming he makes it!

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  2. I am glad things have worked out for BK and I believe playing and living in another country will always help when playing for Sco.
    Plus, it frees up another space for up and coming players.

    Having only two pro sides, Scottish players need to play elsewhere!

  3. So the player who a certain “expert” on here told us would be sitting on the bench all season as deputy to Ramos can now look forward to playing in the European final after playing a major role in getting his side there. Well done Blair!

    There are experts and there are “experts”!

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  4. Don’t think Toulouse kicked one box kick today.
    Bet FFR didn’t get some clown to make a blue print on how to kick the arse off the ball for 80 mins.
    Why don’t we have any French coaches in Scotland?
    Or at least have a partnership with a French team so that we can send the young players there to learn how to play the game properly.
    BK is only playing rugby with a good skill set. Bet he’s not in the gym much now.

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    • At least get the facts straight. Dupont kicked numerous box kicks today so you couldn’t have been watching the game. He always does box kick but they are generally contestable and they vary their tactics and kicking. There will always be a place for good box kicks.

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  5. Good display today even keeping Ramos on the bench (and Capuozzi in the stands!).
    Concerning that in the final seconds looked like he caught a stud in the face and was still rolling around on the ground a couple of minutes after the final whistle. Trust it wasn’t in the eye and this won’t prevent him turning out in the final albeit not for nearly three weeks.

  6. Bit of a damming indictment of Scottish coaching. A player we knew was good but possibly not playing to his full potential moves to a team with incredible talent and yet virtually nails down the 15 shirt there. Let’s be honest, I’m sure a few, me included, thought he might end up being side-lined a bit, not being quite good enough for anything other than a utility replacement. Hats off to Blair who’s taken a lot of stick and proving the doubters wrong. Hope he brings that new found mojo back to the Scottish camp and it’s not beaten out of him. And please will someone at SRU take on board the comments about our coaching and man management – though things seem to be better at Glasgow these days.

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  7. It is astonishing how far the boy has progressed in the very short space of time since moving to France, keeping Ramos out of the side and even his goal-kicking has been reliable. On the verge of a European final, he has made the right move while the club he left is in a dogfight to finish in the URC top eight. Go figure, but far superior coaching than he was getting at club or national level probably has a lot to do with it – as others have said. Hopefully Gregor will deploy that talent wisely, for the men he commands still have it in them and there is absolutely no excuse for continued mediocrity.

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  8. Great move, and really pleased it’s working out for him!!

    Can’t help think that the Scottish (indeed UK) psyche of focussing on peoples’ imperfections as opposed to their strengths is always part of our downfall and why some players must move to fulfil their potential.

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  9. Delighted to see him fitting in so well at Toulouse, and absolutely rising to the challenge of being in such an absurdly stacked squad, and playing an incredibly different style of rugby. The fact his French is crap hasn’t stopped the pink city fans totally embracing him as a mainstay of the team.

    There’s always been this slightly odd disdain for Blair among certain Scotland fans, which I never really understood. Always trying to pick him apart for not being Finn, or not being Stuart Hogg, or his slightly weird personality, or whatever.

    It’s great now to see him stand on his own merits and show what he’s capable of.

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  10. He is absolutely right, at least he recognised it and made a move. Lots of players in the Scottish system in denial about how stagnant and comfortable they are.

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    • To be fair, it’s a lot easier to have the confidence to make that move when you have the best club side on the planet keen to sign you!

  11. He is obviously benefitting from quality coaching in France as opposed to the coaching he had in Scotland at club and international level. As he says himself, he could be his own worst enemy at times with attitude, application, concentration and decision making. Townsend’s mucking about ordaining that he should play at No. 10 set him back too. Of course, playing with such an elite group of players at Toulouse generates confidence and provides quality cover if mistakes are made. Let’s hope his development continues apace.

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    • Watched the game today, maybe more focused but pretty much same BK as I’ve watched for years. Can be brilliant and can kick (up to a point) but………..

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    • Is that really the only thing you could pick out of that story?

      Kind of sums up the way I saw BK, could do better. And although he was mucked about with the 10 thing, it did probably make him a better player.

      Be very interesting to see how he goes for Scotland next year.

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      • Hey I’m delighted he’s doing well and if he can bring that winning attitude into the scotland camp then I’ll be even more delighted.
        It was a tongue in cheek comment based on the whole article being about his need to re-focu/re-motivate/apply himself better/avoid complacency – then spends half the article talking about how little effort he’s putting into learning the language! I hope it’s not a blind spot or another area he may look back on to regret. But regardless, seems he’s fitting in well anyway and playing well which is more important for now.

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