THE last thing James Lang wanted to hear last month as he finished packing up his possessions and finalised plans for the big move north from his native London was that Richard Cockerill, the head coach at the club which had lured him away from newly crowned English Premiership champions Harlequins, was no longer head coach of Edinburgh.
“I won’t lie, there were a couple of days when I was in limbo, I didn’t know who was coming in and I was a little bit agitated,” he says, before re-assessing and coming back with a stronger take.
“It was panic stations, because you sign for a club, for a coach, and then that coach leaves and you think: ‘what if the next coach comes in and I’m not part of his plans or he doesn’t like me?’ That all goes through my mind.”
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As a current Scotland international, we would hope that Lang’s career would not have been allowed to stagnate at a club which is, after all, fully owned by the Scottish Rugby Union. However, there is a long history of top players thought crucial to the national cause becoming shadows of their former selves at both professional teams north of the Border.
In Lang’s case, the anxiety will have been amplified by the fact that he was leaving his local club where he had played as a schoolboy and signed his first professional contract in 2016, and who have just won the Premiership title, to move to a club which didn’t even manage to qualify for the Champions League last year. No wonder he was on edge!
To his great relief, it was announced within a week that Mike Blair would move from being an assistant coach with Scotland to the Edinburgh job.
“I dropped him the message straight away,” the 26-year-old smiles. “I got on well with Mike in camp with Scotland, so after that I was buzzing to get started with the team. Under his coaching style the team and myself will really thrive.”
Lang adds that he expects Blair to promote a similar rugby mind-set as he experienced during the last six months of his time with Harlequins, during a march to the English title under an interim-coaching team, playing a liberated brand of rugby.
“The last six months was a very different place to what it was previously because there was a free-flowing approach to our game,” he says. “Mike will bring that attacking mind-set here so I don’t think it will be a style of play too dissimilar to what I experienced at Quins. He is a very good coach as the work he was doing with Scotland showed.
“With the new pitch as well, it will be a bit faster and will benefit the team. I am buzzing to get started in games.”
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While Lang clearly has a lot of affection and admiration for the club he has just left, it is equally apparent that he is content with the path he has chosen.
“I spent five years at Quins and I loved playing there, but it was very stop-start with game time and moving round positions,” he explains. “I missed out on the Premiership Final at the end of last season, which was a tough pill to swallow really. So, I had to look at where I fit and where I would progress the most.
“I have aspirations to play for my country a lot more and in order to do that I have to play in my best position which is centre, and I haven’t played there a lot over the last couple of years. I just felt making the move to come up here would help me pursue my goals.
“It was definitely the right decision [to move to Edinburg], it was a no brainer. It was hard as I had been comfortable, and when you enjoy your time somewhere it is difficult to leave, but I can’t wait for the next few years now.”
Edinburgh head to Largs tomorrow for a training camp at the National Sports Training Centre Inverclyde.
The Edinburgh roster is packed from 10-13. He will find the competition tough for a place, but good luck to him at his new club.
What is a “Sudden DENTURE” in the headline? Sounds Nasty!
Something to get your teeth into?
Barney this needs a bit of fixing
At least they won’t be toothless in attack!
Fixed now. D’Oh!
On a day to day basis I would think Blair will be a far easier person to work with than Cockers!