MIKE BLAIR believes that Blair Kinghorn has the potential to be a “world class” No 10 – and also reckons he could do a decent job at outside centre if required.
The 25-year-old played almost all of his senior rugby at either wing or full-back up until the tail-end of last season but is now regarded primarily by club and country as a stand-off (where he played age-grade level), appearing off the bench as cover for Finn Russell in Scotland’s two recent defeats to Wales and France.
“I believe that Blair is a potential world class 10, but I also believe it will take him a little bit of time to get there,” said the Edinburgh head coach. “However, as he is getting there, he can excel in his performances so he can be a very, very good 10 as he goes through this transition.
“We just have to give him time, back him, let him grow in that position, and let him really grasp that opportunity. It is up to him to do that as he will get the opportunities.
“He would also be bloody good at 13 because of the skills he has got and because of his high edge defence that he does so well,” Blair added. “I know Steve Tandy [Scotland defence coach] is a huge fan of Blair’s defensive edges and as a 13 you get to do that.
“The general consensus is that he is a bloody good player, so we want him involved and we want to have a good look at him at 10 because we believe that is where he can be most effective and get his hands on the ball most often, which is best for the team.”
Kinghorn has been released from the national camp to wear the 10 jersey for Edinburgh in tonight’s United Rugby Championship clash against Connacht at the DAM Health Stadium, but Blair stressed that this should not be taken as an indication that he is out of the reckonong for next weekend’s trip to Rome to take on Italy.
While nine of Edinburgh’s Scotland squad members have been wrapped in cotton wool for tonight’s game, the coach explained that it is a horses for courses situation.
“With these things it is very much specific to the different players,” he said. “How much recent game time have they had? How important is it for them to get game time? How deep is the cover in that position? Everything will be done on an individual basis.
“Blair started for us against Munster and is back with us again so that is good news for us, and it is great he is going to get some time in the 10 jersey again,” he added, before stressing that he does not see the conversion Kinghorn is undergoing as an experiment.
“I get where you are coming from in that his first three or four seasons of professional rugby were as a back three, but he does have a bit in the bank now as a 10 and he is really excited by it. He feels it is a really good challenge and he knows that I’ll back him and give him opportunities to develop.
“I expect him to grasp that because as a 10 you have to drive standards in training, you have to drive standards off the pitch, you have to know everybody’s role, you have to talk everybody through it as well. So, it is not just what happens on the pitch – a big aspect of that role is that selflessness in driving the team.”
Meanwhile, two academy prospects in 20-year-old second-row Jamie Campbell and 18-year-old back-row Rudi Brown are set for debuts off the bench, which is a consequence of the 10 back-five forwards being unavailable this week due to either international commitments or injury.
“Both are young guys with huge amounts of upside to them,” said Blair. “They’re maybe getting this opportunity slightly earlier than they might have guessed or planned but it shows the confidence that we have in them.
“This is a challenging period for the club but also a great one. It’s giving guys a platform to show what they can do. And if they step up in this period then that’s absolutely brilliant for the club going forward.
“They [Campbell and Brown] have fitted in very well. They’ve trained a fair bit with us this season and they’ll be excited and ready to go.
“We don’t want them to overthink things but to enjoy it as if they’re playing for their schools or clubs and remember why they play the game.”
Edinburgh (v Connacht at the DAM Health Stadium, Friday @ 7.35pm): H Immelman; R Moyano, J Lang, E C Dean, Boffelli; B Kinghorn (vice-captain), H Pyrgos (captain); B Venter, D Cherry (vice-captain), A Williams, P Phillips, G Young, B Muncaster, C Boyle, M Kunavula. Substitutes: A McBurney, H Courtney, L Atalifo, J Campbell, R Brown, B Vellacott, J van der Walt, M Currie.