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Grant Gilchrist expecting to retire a one-club man after signing Edinburgh extension

GRANT GILCHRIST knows that the “long term” contract extension he signed with Edinburgh yesterday means it is likely that he will end his professional playing career as a one-club man – and he will have no regrets if that proves to be the case. 

The second-row has had opportunities to play elsewhere. Most notably, he was courted by French giants Toulon back in 2016, who regarded him as an ideal replacement for retiring Ireland and Lions legend Paul O’Connell. That deal didn’t materialise, and Gilchrist has always avoided discussing the episode in detail, focussing instead on making the most of his career playing for the club he first joined as an academy player back in 2010. 

This is the fourth contract extension he has signed with the capital outfit since that brief flirtation with Toulon, and Gilchrist says he couldn’t bear to move away now that the club is beginning to realise its potential.  

“The grass isn’t always greener and I want to be part of Edinburgh going forward,” said the 31-year-old, who has played 167 games for the club since his debut in September 2011, and who is current co-captain alongside Stuart McInally. 

“I have invested a lot of time and effort, and I absolutely love the club – the people who have come before and the people who are there now – so I would have hated to have gone elsewhere and looked on from afar at a club I am so passionate about being successful  

“It [winning silverware with Edinburgh] is something that I would definitely love to do before I retire,” he added. “That is why this contract was signed by me: because of the draw of the club and my connections to the club, and because of what Mike [Blair] is doing as head coach and the squad of players we are putting together.  

“Things might have been a bit different if I had gone there [to Toulon] but I don’t regret anything in my career. I grew up watching Edinburgh play on Friday nights at Myreside and then at Meadowbank, so I have never taken it for granted that I am lucky to play for the club I support.  

“There is always that question of: what else is there? But I am a great believer that if I am happy and if it is a place where I can develop and get better, then that’s worth a lot.  

“With Mike coming in I see an opportunity to make myself and the team better over the next few years, and that is a massive factor.” 

Gilchrist’s first season in the Edinburgh team was 2011-12 when they marched to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup under Michael Bradley before being knocked-out by Ulster. However, the team’s league form that year was abysmal, and they ended up second bottom of the PRO12 table. 

He insists that the current set-up is better suited to achieving sustained success than that side of 11 years ago, which featured current head coach Blair as a player, alongside several other Scottish rugby legends such as Greig Laidlaw, Tim Visser, Allan Jacobsen and Ross Ford. 

“I think probably the difference now compared to then is the depth of the squad we have,” he explained. “The young guys who have come through have really bolstered that, which is why we can compete on both fronts and be a more consistent outfit than we were in 2011.  

“Back then we could go well in one-off games but struggled with that consistency. We are in a different place now. We strive to be more consistent. 

“We’ve also got a better balance between different attributes,” he continued. “When I first started, we were a free-flowing team that played some great rugby but our set-piece and our defence didn’t hold up in big games against top teams. Then we played a bit more conservatively and our set-piece and defence was our biggest strength but we struggled to break teams down. This season I believe this is the best opportunity we’ve got to do it all. To be able to win games in different ways.  

Edinburgh play their final European Challenge Cup pool match at home to Brive on Friday night, knowing a win will secure qualification into the last 16 of the tournament. 

Before that, Gilchrist should receive confirmation today of his selection for Scotland’s Six Nations training squad.  “We’re at a point with the national team where we need to translate some good form and great one-off performances into a full campaign,” he concluded.  

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