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.
“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.