EDINBURGH ‘senior’ coach Sean Everitt says he is absolutely confident the Blair Kinghorn will be in the right place mentally to face Ulster on Saturday evening in what will be the full-back’s last game for the club before joining Toulouse the following Monday.
Kinghorn has found himself in the strange position of having to play two more games for the capital club between agreeing terms on a mid-season switch to France and his actual departure. The 26-year-old had an up and down 80 minutes in the first of those matches against Benetton last weekend, which ultimately ended in disappointment when his loose offload handed the Italians their match winning try – but Everitt wanted to focus on the positives as he looked ahead to this coming weekend’s trip to Belfast.
“Blair was really good [against Benetton] on Friday night,” he insisted. “If luck had gone our way a little bit on a forward pass, he might have got three tries in the first 25 minutes.
“So he’s really important to this group. We respect him for his ability as a rugby player, we respect him for his commitment to the club.
“Most importantly, in the world of professional sport, players come and go. There’s no reason why we can’t play him to his last game.
“A lot was going on last week in his life as well – probably the biggest week of his rugby career. And he performed admirably in those circumstances, so I don’t see anything different [this week]. I’m sure if he’d felt pressure he would have come and had a chat with me and we’d have come to some sort of agreement that he maybe should or shouldn’t play.
“I leave that it’s up to the player. I believe he’s honest and he’s committed to Edinburgh and I don’t see why it should be any different this week.”
Everitt might have felt more inclined to give Kinghorn the weekend off if he wasn’t already missing two of his other international back-three players – Darcy Graham and Emiliano Boffelli – through injury.
“Darcy has been up and down,” said Everitt. “When the announcement came that he’d injured his knee, he actually had an injured hip at the time – it was just that his knee was maybe a little bit worse than his hip.
“So it has been backwards and forwards, and he’s been running and had a few setbacks with his return to play. But I’m really hopeful that he’ll be able to be back on the field against Castres [in round two of the Challenge Cup in three weekends’ time].
“Just for next week [against Clermont] if we feel that he’s not 100 per cent, we’re not going to risk him. For Darcy to come back he must be 100 per cent fit, ready, well prepared, because we’ve got two important games [1872 Cup matches against Glasgow} – first the European game as well – then obviously we’ve got to get through January and get him to full fitness for the Six Nations too.”
“Boffelli is also expected to be back for the Castres clash.” he added.
Youngsters Nathan Sweeney and Harry Paterson will also hope to push for game time in the No 15 jersey as the season progresses having overcome their own injury set-backs in recent months.
“Nathan returned to the training field this week [following a hamstring injury which forced him out of the team’s URC season opener against the Dragons in mid-October], which is great for us with Blair’s departure,” said Everitt. ”
Harry played for the ‘A’ team against Glasgow last Friday and he was outstanding. He’s put his hand up for selection there, and I’m proud of him because he’s also gone through a bit of adversity – he missed quite a lot of the pre-season due to [a hamstring] injury. He wasn’t quite fit for the first round when we played against Dragons, and we had to play Cammy Scott at full-back. And then the question was, well, when does he get an opportunity when Blair’s back playing well?
Those opportunities will come for them now over the next couple of weeks. The performance that they put in against Glasgow ‘A’ was really good, so hopefully they’ll be rewarded in selection.”
Meanwhile, Everitt confirmed that back-rowers Viliame Mata and Hamish Watson will be available this week after recovering from concussion and a cheekbone injury, respectively.
“Yes, they are available for selection,” said the South African coach. “It’s a nice headache to have with Hamish coming back. Connor Boyle has done really well for us. There could be a rotation in that position – Connor has done a job for us six weeks in a row and he probably deserves a break, which gives us an opportunity to give Hamish a run.
“I’ve always said that in the last three games in December I’d like to have the squad at full strength, and we’re certainly working towards that target.”
There will also be rotation in the second-row. “Grant Gilchrist will be resting this week, and Jamie Hodgson and Marshall Sykes will come into the reckoning for selection. Glen Young doesn’t need to be rested [as part of Scottish Rugby international player protocols], although he’s also carried quite a big load for six weeks now. But we’re not in a position to rest all of them.
“It’s important that we get back on the horse and focus on the next game [after last weekend’s frustrating loss to Benetton],” he added. “That was extremely disappointing but you can’t fault the performance in a way, it was three soft tries and two times they scored 90 metre tries when we were on attack and looking to score ourselves.
“I suppose it does take a little bit of luck – the bounce of the ball – but we can’t put it down to that. I’ve spoken before about the turnovers we conceded in previous years, and although our numbers weren’t as high last weekend – turnovers down from 19 to 13 – we still need to look after the ball.
“When you’ve got a line-out five metres from the opposition line to win the game with five minutes to go, we should expect to win that, but we didn’t and then there were processes after that we should have followed to prevent them from scoring which we didn’t follow.
“The drop-goal opportunity [Edinburgh missed at the end] as well, we maybe went a little bit early, so we looked at that with our strategy group. The call to maul was right and we could have been rewarded in a way in that passage of play, but we maybe didn’t stick to the plan to run out the clock and went too early.
“We need to take those learning into the game against Ulster because we need to be accurate for 80 minutes, especially away from home, against a team that is going to be hungry after their loss to Glasgow last week.”