OPPORTUNITY will knock for George Taylor on Saturday, with the 23-year-old expected to be given his first start for Edinburgh in their fourth outing since rugby creeped out of lockdown when the capital men take on Bordeaux-Begles in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup at Stade Chaban-Delmas.
He’s by no means a novice at this level – in fact, he picked up a man-of-the-match gong for his two try performance away to Agen in the pool stage of this same competition – but for the team’s biggest games, head coach Richard Cockerill has tended to prefer Matt Scott and Chris Dean during the last two seasons.
Scott has now departed for Leicester Tigers and with Dean likely to miss out this week as Cockerill looks to revitalise the side following their PRO14 play-off defeat to Ulster a week past Saturday, Taylor is ready to step into the breach.
“When they mentioned that Matt was leaving it kind of woke me up a bit because I thought I’d potentially have more games in the 12 jersey,” said Taylor. “I’ve just tried to focus on my own game and improve where I can.
“At the same time Matt Gordon has come in and is playing really well, as is Chris Dean, so that competition is good for the club.
“But I’m looking to make my mark a bit more. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m looking to get a consistent run of games under my belt towards the end of this season which will hopefully lead into the start of the new season.”
While Taylor’s big strengths are his dynamism and physicality in the middle of the park, he is determined to develop the softer touches in his game which will help push him up the pecking order at the club.
“I need to vary my game a bit more,” he acknowledged. “We’ve been training to use little attacking kicks in the wide channel and I think a small kicking game would help me a lot. I’ve had some solid performances but with a kicking game I think I’d be able to excel.”
This weekend’s opponents led the Top14 before Covid caused the abandonment on the domestic season in France, and they will field a high-calibre midfield against Edinburgh which is likely to feature French internationals Matthieu Jalibert and Rémi Lamerat, plus New Zealander Ben Botica. It will be a big challenge which Taylor insists he is looking forward to tackling head-on.
“It’s exciting more than anything,” he said. “There will be nerves there, but good nerves. It’s another chance to go and prove myself against an opposition I’ve not played before.
“They’ll be strong, I’m looking forward to it, especially if Jalibert plays at 10. He’s a skilful footballer but his defence is one of his areas of weakness so we’ll be targeting that for sure. Just to play against the likes of Jallibert will be exciting.”