Edinburgh youngsters impress at pre-season, says Duncan Hodge

Rugby boys gear up to take on Eastern Knights in 'Battle of the Capital' cricket match at The Grange this [Friday] evening

Duncan Hodge is looking forward to getting his cricket whites back on this weekend. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson

ON the day that a new intake to the senior ranks of the Fosroc Scottish Rugby Academies was unveiled, it was also revealed that at least two of the newcomers are already training at the top level and early impressions are good.

Matt Currie, who was centre in the recent Scotland Under 18s Six Nations Festival tournament, and Harry Paterson, who was wing in the same team, have both impressed according to Edinburgh attack coach Duncan Hodge.

“Some of the guys coming in have been straight from school, the likes of Matt Currie, Harry Paterson and these guys,” he observed “They only finished school 10 weeks ago so it is good to see them in  this week and last.

“They have only just come in but you think back to the last two or three seasons and there are always certain positions you get exposed in and young guys get a chance. If they are good enough, then they will play, that has always been the mantra.”

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Which, to be fair, is a long way from saying they are close to actually playing for Edinburgh, though Hodge and Richard Cockerill, the head coach, have a history of experimenting with young players, particularly in the pre-season games where the match against London Scottish on 31st August could be an obvious target. Last season Jack Blain did get a pre-season run against Bath before reverting to Heriot’s and the U20s.

Currie’s and Paterson’s presence also owes something to the need to make up the numbers with the Edinburgh pre-season running in parallel with Rugby World Cup preparations that has diverted 14 players, 10 of them forwards, off to Scotland camp, as well as Bill Mata to Fiji.

On top of that, while Mesulame Kunavula, the lock-come-backrow, has arrived from Fiji, the Pacific Island training squad has kept Eroni Sau, a summer signing who played against the Maori and could make the World Cup.

It all adds up to problems for the coaches, Hodge admitted. “The rugby is just starting to ramp up now but it is obviously disjointed,” he said. “The season is starting a bit later and we are going to have some boys away but we don’t know who. All that stuff.

“As coach, you want what is best for the individual and it is important they play for Scotland but there are certain positions [mostly forwards] that have been wiped out in portions of the squad at the moment.

“Most teams are the same, you look at the Italians and Leinster and these teams and they are all the same, they will have a lot of guys away as well.”

“That whole eight to 10 weeks is important, you have a block without them [the World Cup players] and you need to get off to a good start,” he added.

“Then you have a block when they come back but they will all have had different levels of game time and exposure at the World Cup. You have to try to integrate them when there are new calls and potential new systems. It is tricky.”

With another two months go to before the season starts, though, Edinburg have plenty of time to get ready, though it also means they have to find ways to keep the players fresh during the long preparation period – hence activities like this evening’s Twenty20 match against their cricket counterparts, the Eastern Knights.

The match, dubbed the ‘Battle of the Capital’ at The Grange and in aid of Heart Scotland, the Brain Tumour Charity and Ronald McDonald Housing Charity, is a chance for all those players who have not touched a bat since they were at school – which pretty much includes Hodge, a Scotland Under 19 player before rugby took over – to try to relive old times and do some good at the same time.

General admission is £5, while a family ticket for two adults and up to four kids can be snapped up for £10. The match starts at 5.15pm.

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About Lewis Stuart 73 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.