STUART MCINALLY has been handed the Edinburgh captaincy for the coming season because Richard Cockerill reckons he epitomises everything the club should stand for.
“He’s a local boy, he’s a world class player, he’s proved in the last 12 months that he can compete on the world stage, and his work ethic on and off the field is second to none,” explained Edinburgh’s head coach. “Whether he plays for us or Scotland there’s no difference. He doesn’t save himself for Scotland, he just does everything really, really well.
“Outside of that, with guys like [Henry] Pyrgos, [Fraser] McKenzie, [John] Barclay and [Grant] Glichrist, there’s a lot of good leadership, so I think it’s perfect for us as a club and our supporters to identify with a Scotsman who was born down the road, educated down the road, and who’s leading the capital team.”
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McInally’s installation as skipper is the latest evidence that the 28-year-old has finally arrived as a player of the top rank. He started his career as a back-row before switching to hooker five years ago, but a combination of injury at inopportune moments, a lack of form in a struggling team and the level of competition in that specific position meant that he was in real danger of being a perennial nearly man for both club and country.
The arrival of Cockerill – himself a former international hooker – at Edinburgh last summer has had a rejuvenating effect on the whole squad, and particularly on McInally, who was Scotland’s stand-out performer last season, earning him the honour of being named national squad skipper on this summer’s tour to the Americas.
“I have captained a number of teams – age grade sides and so on – so I am comfortable with the role. I probably overthought it in the past. The more I captain the more I believe it is just about playing well and working hard,” said the player.
Asked about overthinking the role in the past, McInally replied: “You think you should say the right thing at the right time … probably speaking too much. Sometimes the best answers come out when you sit back and let others lead. I am lucky at Edinburgh where I am surrounded by guys who have been captains of teams in the past, and the younger guys are keen to lead now.”
An improving side
Edinburgh reached the play-offs in the Guinness PRO14 last season for the first time ever and reached the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup, so there is a weight of expectation on the team which has not been there in the past – but McInally says the players are pretty clear that what they achieved last year was a good start but there is still a long way to go in this team’s development.
“We have no hard and fast rules. We just want to make sure we do the best we can every week to put ourselves in the best position to win. As Cockers always says: ‘We will get what we get, we will get what we earn’.
“He is right. We haven’t won anything yet. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We made a play-off. In terms of where the club has been we are in a good space, but it is an important message to reinforce.
“If at the end of every game we have battled and been physical and tried everything we can to win, and our attitude was right, then we will take that as a success. We can’t say we are going to win the league as we don’t know what other teams are doing. All we know is what we can control and that is how hard we can work. We will get what we deserve.”
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