Rugby: Nikki Walker keen to end management limbo

Nikki Walker. Picture: SNS
Nikki Walker. Picture: SNS
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Nikki WALKER insists it is business as usual at Edinburgh Rugby as the club await the announcement of a permanent coach to succeed Michael Bradley, who left back in March.

The 31-year-old Scottish international winger, whose signing on a two-year deal from Worcester Warriors came shortly after Bradley’s 
departure, admits the current situation is “not ideal”.

However, he is confident matters will be resolved long before he pulls on a jersey and resumes a career north of the Border that was cruelly interrupted by an injury he suffered in a World Cup warm-up game two years ago. Walker told the Evening News: “It’s not ideal. Stevie Scott is in charge at the moment, but we don’t know what’s happening.

“But it’s pre-season and it’s not rugby work we are doing at the moment. Rather it is the conditioning side of things we are working on and fitness trainer Andy Boyd is doing a great job.

“We’ll be ready to go as soon as someone comes in and takes over, though.”

As he contemplates the latest chapter in a career which saw him rise to prominence when he scored a try as Hawick won the 2002 Scottish Cup with an extra-time victory over Glasgow Hawks in front of 18,000 at Murrayfield, Walker can be forgiven for looking forward to the annual Edinburgh-Glasgow showdowns.

Those games are likely to pit the man who notched six tries in his 24-cap appearances in direct opposition with Stuart Hogg, and Walker is determined to show that he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

On selection for the British and Irish Lions, Hogg, 21, revealed inspiration came as a youngster at primary school watching Walker make a try-scoring Scotland debut in a 21-6 Murrayfield victory over South Africa, also in 2002.

Speaking last month, the Lions ace recalled: “I was ten-years-old and in Primary Five when Nikki made his first appearance for Scotland. That gave me a great way into an exercise on creative writing when the teacher had told us to dream.

“I still remember the headline on my piece – ‘Nikki takes the field’ – and I went on to write how much I would love to play rugby for Scotland and the 
Lions.”

That dream has now come true and Walker couldn’t be more delighted for the Glasgow Warriors player.

“I’ve known Stuart since he was a kid and saw him playing rugby at school,” he revealed. “He is class and a good guy, but in a small town like Hawick you’d expect everybody to know each other.

“Hopefully Stuart will make the Lions’ Test squad. He’s done well when he has played.”

Perhaps Walker might have been out in Australia himself had he not damaged medial knee ligaments towards the end of a 23-13 win over Italy two days before the 2011 World Cup squad was due to be named. Walker hasn’t played for Scotland since and he later moved from Ospreys to Worcester, only to find further injury woes restricting his opportunities.

However, fully refreshed and raring to go, he now feels he has lost time to make up. “The injury just before the World Cup cost me the whole season and was a bad one,” continued Walker. “It was bad timing but these things happen. Pretty much every player will have one of those and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.

“I had a shoulder operation over the summer and am just coming back from that, so there hasn’t been much of a break with all the rehabing.

“I’m over the disappointment of missing the World Cup, though, and excited about getting back playing, especially back home. 
Edinburgh are a team that like to play a lot of rugby and 
hopefully that will continue with a lot of ball coming my way on a nice wide pitch like 
Murrayfield.”

The arrival of the 6ft 5in, 16st 11lb Walker conjures up visions of a powerful strike force on both wings, with the 6ft 4in, 17st 2lb Tim Visser in the ranks. It is an appetising prospect, but Walker knows 
others stand in his way.

“Lee Jones has played for Scotland and is competing for a wing place, and the same goes for Tom Brown,” he added.

“Fortunately by the time matches come along I’ll be miles ahead of schedule after my rehab. I am really excited about the season ahead in a different environment.”

Some aspects of the move will bring him into contact with his past, though, as Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson and new forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys are both known to him from his time at the Ospreys and the men he has to impress to get back on Scotland duty.