NEARLY nine months after signing a contract with Edinburgh, the long wait is almost over for Simon Hickey. The 24-year-old stand-off is fit, and ready to go, and all being well will make his much-awaited debut against Bath at Meggetland on Friday night.
Last season, his third with French club Bordeaux Begles, was an interrupted one for Hickey, who was out for three months over the turn of the year with a knee injury. But he was back playing well before the end of the campaign, and with a full pre-season behind him looks certain to hit the ground running.
Affable and unassuming, Hickey is not the type to boast about a pedigree that includes a spell as New Zealand Under-20s captain. Nor – wholly understandably given he has yet to make his debut – is he inclined to discuss the sort of impact he might make with his new team. There is little doubt, however, of the pivotal role he is expected to play by head coach Richard Cockerill.
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EXCLUSIVE: Kiwi stand-off Simon Hickey on why he has signed for Edinburgh
The Englishman exceeded expectations in his first season at the helm, leading Edinburgh to the PRO14 play-offs, but while the team’s performances were much improved, there were still several areas in need of serious work. South African 10 Jaco van der Walt arrived in November and took over from the now-departed Jason Tovey and Duncan Weir, but at times his dependability shaded off into predictability. Hickey offers greater inventiveness as an individual, while his leadership experience should also help coax inspired performances out of his outside backs.
Or at least, that is the plan – one no more than hinted at by Hickey at Murrayfield on Friday when asked what Cockerill said to persuade him to leave France behind. “I had a good chat with him about what he’s trying to achieve here,” the stand-off said. “He has big ambitions and he saw me as a player that will hopefully slot into the mould of the game that he is trying to play. I hope that unfolds: I hope that I can repay the faith and play some good rugby for Edinburgh and have some success.”
The other person to have a big role in persuading the fly-half of the wisdom of the move north was his compatriot Phil Burleigh, who has now left the team. “The way he spoke, it was a club that had improved ever since he arrived and he really enjoyed living in the city,” Hickey said.
“I didn’t have much of a perception of Edinburgh myself. It was more a perception of Scottish rugby which is that of obviously a team that has improved massively over the last five to 10 years, competing in World Cups and the Six Nations. That excited me.”
The other thing to excite him so far is the quality of the players he will be working with. “There are certainly a few backs with a bit of X-factor out there,” he continued. “Blair [Kinghorn] is one of them, Dougie Fife . . . . Matt Scott looks like a really good player. I’m excited to see how all the boys shape up in a game, because you follow them in training and get an idea, but you only see them properly in games.”
Without a Scottish bloodline, Hickey could only graduate to the national team on residency grounds. Given that would take longer than the two-year contract he has signed, he is not concerned by the issue at present. “It would have to be five years, but that wasn’t part of the reason why I signed,” he added. “I’m just focused on Edinburgh.”
- Edinburgh v Bath, Friday 17th, Meggetland, kick-off 7.30pm.