AUSTRALIAN Sam Kitchen has been added to Edinburgh’s playing roster in a further indication of how Scotland’s pro teams will look to streamline their wage bill in the future.
The 26-year-old joins the capital outfit on a partnership contract with Ayrshire Bulls, the Super6 franchise which initially brought him to Scotland at the start of last (2019-20) season. He will take over the fourth hooker spot at the club from Cammy Fenton, who did not have his full-time contract renewed this summer and is now understood to be joining the Heriot’s Super6 franchise.
Even before the Covid-19 crisis heralded a period of significant retrenchment across the whole of the Scottish Rugby business, figures close to Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors were making it clear that a closer alignment with the academies and Super6 was on the cards as a way of smoothing the development pathway and trimming excess fat from the pro teams’ budgets.
Kitchen is likely to continue to play predominantly for the Bulls next season, with his game time at Edinburgh limited to those occasions when two out of the three full-time hookers in Richard Cockerill‘s squad – Stuart McInally, Mike Willemse and Dave Cherry – are unavailable. Fenton made 14 appearances off the bench and just one start in the PRO14 during his three year association with the club.
Edinburgh have already announced the signings of youngsters Nathan Chamberlain (stand-off), Dan Gamble (tighthead prop) and Ben Muncaster (back-row) ahead of next season, on two year deals which will start off as stage three academy contracts and turn into full-time arrangements for the 2021-22 campaign.
And earlier this week, Marshall Sykes (second-row/back-row) was promoted from a stage three academy contract to a full-time deal, while Rory Darge (back-row), Connor Boyle (back-row) and Sam Grahamslaw (loosehead prop) are set to follow suit in the coming weeks.
Kitchen joined the Bulls from Sydney side Northern Suburbs in September 2019 and finished the inaugural FOSROC Super6 campaign as top try-scorer with eight scores from 10 matches.
“It’s been an incredible journey and I look forward to my next challenge in the Guinness PRO14 and European club competitions,” he said.
His elevation to the Edinburgh set-up comes ahead of a number of strong candidates from Super6, including Ross Graham of Watsonians (although he missed last season with a shoulder injury) and Fraser Renwick of Southern Knights.
“We’ve been really impressed with Sam having watched him progress in this year’s Super6 competition,” said Cockerill. “He’s got a really solid set-piece, while he’s clearly got an eye for a gap and a knack for getting over the whitewash given his try-scoring record this season.
“We’re looking forward to working with Sam and we’re keen to see his game develop further within the pro environment.”
Kitchen is eligible for selection ahead of the proposed 2019-20 Guinness PRO14 restart, which will see Edinburgh play a double-header against Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield on 22nd and 29th August, ahead of the play-offs which run over the following two weekends and their Challenge Cup quarter-final against Bordeaux-Begles on the weekend of 18th to 20th September.