In the next part of our Under the Spotlight series, we take an in-depth look at the recent performances of former Edinburgh co-captain Grant Gilchrist, and the rising star of Blair Kinghorn, and how both could be crucial to Edinburgh Rugby’s future. By Erin McRitchie
Grant Gilchrist is a forceful lock forward who is usually distinguishable by the bright red scrum cap he favours to wear when on the field. Appearing in six out of Richard Cockerill’s seven games in charge, Gilchrist has repeatedly shown his dependability in ‘the boiler room’ of the scrum.
His is a unique career as, since he turned professional in 2011, Gilchrist has been a true one club man. In staying with Edinburgh, he has already managed to garner 105 caps. His dedication to the capital club also saw him named co-captain with Stuart McInally for the 2016/17 season.
Gilchrist can also boast the honour of having played for Scotland at age grade level (under-19 and under-20) as well as international level, even having the privilege to be named as captain of Scotland for the 2014 autumn internationals, although he was forced to withdraw due to injury.
Having overcome injuries, Gilchrist signed a new contract at the beginning of 2017 which will see him stay with the capital side until May 2019. This can only be a positive for both Edinburgh and Scotland, as Gilchrist is known for being a hard ball carrier, and unrelenting in tackles. A strong leadership figure, the younger players will surely benefit playing under his guidance.
It could be said that the arrival of new head coach Richard Cockerill has served to boost Gilchrist’s game. He has come back this season looking stronger and more determined than in previous seasons. Perhaps the loss of the co-captaincy pressure has allowed him to truly focus on his own game, which will ultimately benefit Edinburgh in the long run.
As a team, Edinburgh need game changers. Players who can come on to the field and motivate others around them. Players to instil confidence in their teammates, whilst not allowing their own performance to slip. The way Gilchrist has been performing of late, it seems he is the consistent figure that Edinburgh need in their scrum.
Blair Kinghorn is a promising young back, who excels in the full-back position, but possesses the skill to switch to stand-off when called upon. Despite his young age (he is still only 20), Kinghorn is cementing his name in the Edinburgh shirt – he will receive his 50th cap this weekend against Treviso.
Having signed with Edinburgh in May 2015, he made his debut in the fifth round of the 2015/16 season. Since then, it seems like his consistency in performance has led to him being seen as first choice full-back for the capital outfit. And long may this continue, as it was announced at the start of this season that he had agreed a new two-year deal with the club.
Kinghorn has represented Scotland at all academy levels, including being a part of the history making under-20s side which this year secured Scotland’s highest ever World U20 Championship finish. They beat Australia 24-17 to gain the fifth place finish out in Georgia.
Kinghorn is a fast-paced, sure-footed and quick-thinking young player. It is not unusual to see him breaking through the opposition’s defence, and storming towards the line for an exhilarating try. And it wouldn’t be the first time that he had raced back to defend the Edinburgh line, executing a try-saving tackle in the process.
With fans backing him, and Cockerill seeming to have him in favour, surely it wouldn’t be completely out of left field to imagine him in a Scotland shirt in the not-so-distant future? After all, whilst in past seasons inexperience saw him have lapses in concentration, under Cockerill’s tutelage, this seems to have all but disappeared.
Ultimately, steady and determined performances from Gilchrist and the youthful grit of Kinghorn may be exactly what Edinburgh needs for a successful season. As has been well publicised, the club is still very much under development. However, this may be the exact time for both these players to step up and show their true talent.