A closer look at the returning Dougie Fife and the developing game of Stuart McInally, and what these two could mean for Edinburgh Rugby this 2017/18 season. By Erin McRitchie
Stuart McInally, or ‘Rambo’, is a hooker who’s developed game-playing has not gone unnoticed at the start of this season. He has played in five out of the six games this season, even scoring a try against Zebre on Friday night’s game at Myreside.
In a rugby career that started at George Watson’s College, McInally has represented Scotland at a number of age grade levels. However, he was not always a hooker, initially starting out in the back row positions. Finding his calling in the change of position to the front row, McInally would eventually make his Edinburgh debut in February of 2015, coming off of the bench against Ospreys.
A little over two years later, and McInally can now proudly say that he is the owner of 107 Edinburgh caps. If his performances from the start of this season are anything to go by, he could become a main-stay of new Head Coach Richard Cockerill’s team. McInally himself has admitted that the arrival of Cockerill and the introduction of a new culture and drive in the club has only benefited his playing performance.
Harsh in his tackling and ball carrying technique, he can pose as a threat to any defensive set up. His lineout throwing has come under question in previous seasons, however, during Cockerill’s new regime it seems to have seriously improved. And looking at any player on the field in an Edinburgh jersey you are astounded at how the stamina and intensity has increased. Take McInally’s try last week; barrelling through Zebre’s defence, heart set on the line, and as a supporter you’re in your seat thinking, “On yourself, Rambo!”
As Scotland’s autumn tests approach, it is perfectly natural for people to look at the Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby players in a more analytical light. So, surveying McInally’s recent performances, and the fact that he has represented Scotland before (he has nine international caps), could possibly put him in good stead for selection to Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad.
Dougie Fife is a fast-paced player, known for his ingenuity and ability to play at wing, centre or full-back. Like many others in the Edinburgh team, Fife has represented his country at academy levels, however, he also has the commendation of being an award-winning Scotland Sevens player.
Fife played with Edinburgh from 2011 until the end of the 2015/16 season. Upon leaving the capital club, he soon became a full-time Scotland Sevens player, being instrumental in Scotland winning the London leg of the World Rugby 7s Series in 2016 – and it was his last minute try in the corner that secured Scotland’s narrow victory over South Africa . Talk about steely nerve.
Cockerill has chosen to call on Fife a number of times this season , allowing the 7s player to add to his 88 caps for Edinburgh. Many fans have started to call into question the thinking that led to Fife leaving the club as he has always been electric in his ball carrying and try scoring abilities.
With a 7s season full of tournaments fast approaching, however, it seems as though we will once again have to do without Fife. Hopefully his quick thinking and bursts of pace has inspired younger players such as Chris Dean and Blair Kinghorn to trust their instincts when given a small gap in the line, and to go for it.
Once again we have to remind ourselves that Edinburgh Rugby is still very much in a development period. With the win over Zebre at Myreside last week, however, they have managed to take record this season to 3-3. So, if as a team, they keep their heads down and their determination sizzling, whilst as individual players they keep progressing in their personal game, then perhaps we could see that win figure start to gradually rise.