Sam Hidalgo-Clyne determined to make the most of Exeter Chiefs opportunity

Scrum-half is happy to put club ahead of country after being left out of Scotland's Autumn Series training squad

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is happy to focus on establishing himself as first choice scrum-half at Exeter Chiefs after failing to make Scotland's Autumn series training squad. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is happy to focus on establishing himself as first choice scrum-half at Exeter Chiefs after failing to make Scotland's Autumn series training squad. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SAM HIDALGO-CLYNE says he has parked the disappointment of missing out on selection for the 40-man Scotland Autumn Test Series training squad which was announced on Monday, with the fact that he is going to be part of two huge cup finals during the next fortnight helping take the sting out of the snub.

The 27-year-old scrum-half, who has been an important part of the Exeter Chiefs squad which has marched to the European Champions Cup Final against Racing 92 this coming Saturday and the English Premiership Grand Final against Wasps seven days later, says he IS excited about focussing fully on finishing the club season in style.
 
“It was obviously a hard pill to swallow because I feel like I’ve been in very good form, but on the flip side you’ve got to see the positives,” he said. “For me, I get the opportunity to start the [2020-21] season fresh in four and a half weeks’ time and go from there and get a real run of games, to try and get first place here.


Townsend turns to the tried and tested for gruelling Autumn Test series

Three uncapped players in Scotland’s Autumn Test squad

Lockdown provides Stuart Hogg with a sense of perspective


“Gregor tried to call me, he left a voice message with me, and I dropped him a message back,” he added. “I said I’d take his points on and work hard here, and explained that’s where I am mentally because I’ve got a couple of big weeks here, so I said I’d ring him in a couple of weeks’ time and see where we’re at.”

Townsend has explained that the fact Hidalgo-Clyne’s club commitments mean that he will not be able to join-up with the squad until after the Georgia game a week on Friday, and just five days before Scotland’s final Six Nations match against Wales on 31st October, was a consideration in his decision to call-up uncapped Scott Steele as the third scrum-half alongside Ali Price and George Horne.

The coach also left the door open for players to be added to the group after the Wales game, during the two week break before the Nations Cup kicks-off with a trip to Italy on 14th November.

For his part, Hidalgo-Clyne has not given up on the dream of adding to the 12 Scotland caps he picked up between 2015 and 2018, but after a difficult two years since leaving Edinburgh, he has finally found a club where he feels he belongs, and is determined to make the absolute most of it.

“I just want to focus on the present and the two biggest weeks of my career,” he stressed. “If the Scotland stuff happens then it happens, but if it doesn’t then I’ve just got to keep working hard. If it does in due time come into place then perfect, but if not then we go again.”

Before joining the Chiefs during lockdown, he’d had spells with Scarlets, Harlequins(on loan), Saturday’s opponents Racing 92 as World Cup cover and Lyon without managing to settle, so you can understand why it is so important to him to make the most of this golden opportunity with the dominant club in English rugby at the moment.

“That’s massive for me,” he said. “When I spoke to Rob Baxter [Exeter’s Director of Rugby], I said this isn’t just about me it’s about my son and my fiancé as well. My son’s seen plenty of different bedrooms over the last year or so and it’s not good for them. It’s true what they say – happy wife, happy life – so I’ve made sure they are comfortable for a couple of years and I can focus on my primary role here at Chiefs.

“If you’re on a short-term contract and wondering where your next game will come from it’s pretty unsettling, so it helps that I can focus on my game and make the best of it.

“I’ve loved playing here and I’m excited to get going next season as early as possible so that I can continue, get a good run of games and keep training as much as possible,” he added. “The biggest difference I’ve noticed here is that they train at full match intensity two or three days on the bounce, back-to-back, whereas most teams don’t do that. I’ve found that really beneficial going into games.

“The way that they play suits me, although it means that I need to be a lot fitter, and that’s probably helped my game. I get more touches in the game and am working harder off the ball, so I think all-in-all it’s a little bit of everything. It’s also easier when you’ve got a pack that’s going forward so that helps as well.”

Hidalgo-Clyne is set to be one of four Scottish players in the Exeter squad for Saturday’s Champions Cup Final, alongside national team skipper Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner.
 
“At a few clubs I’ve gone to I’ve not known many people so coming down here in lockdown and seeing some familiar faces really helped,” he concluded.


Three uncapped players in Scotland’s Autumn Test squad

 

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The Grudge by Tom English
David Barnes
About David Barnes 1994 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

4 Comments

  1. Surely these are the very players that have benefited from the SRU development who then move on to bigger and better things leaving space for others to come through. Would Hastings have developed as quickly if Russell hadn’t left Glasgow? Same as Cummings for Gray, and now Huw Jones filling Hoggs boots?
    With only 2 pro teams it’s the only way to go

  2. He is has looked razor sharp when I have watched him, getting to rucks instantly with a very quick service.
    Remember seeing him play for Heriots as a youngster and had to ask who he was, since he was such a stand out.
    Great to see after a period in the doldrums, Baxter does seem to get the best out of players so good news all round.

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  3. Four Scots in this Exeter squad – presumably benefiting and developing far more in several ways from playing there than they ever would if they had remained in Scotland.

    Makes you think about the value of the SRU’s costly and over-staffed so-called player development, retention and management systems?

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