EDINBURGH have extended the academy contracts of promising young forwards Hamish Watson and George Turner with the challenge of using this season to earn senior deals.
The former Scotland under-20 caps have impressed in the SRU’s elite development player (EDP) programme, but found opportunities to break into Edinburgh’s senior team limited. Watson, a flanker developed by the Exiles having come through the Leicester academy, was on a Scotland sevens contract before joining Edinburgh’s EDP group last year.
The 21-year-old turned out for Edinburgh Academical mostly, but did win a step up after injuries struck Ross Rennie and Roddy Grant and he proved his worth in 14 appearances for Edinburgh.
Turner, a 20-year-old hooker born and bred in Edinburgh, has had his progress hindered by a hip injury, but after experiences in New Zealand with the John Macphail Scholarship, and South Africa with Scotland’s under-20 Junior World Championship squad, Edinburgh interim head coach Stevie Scott believes that both Watson and Turner could now really push for full senior contracts.
He said: “Hamish and George are two young and up-and-coming players in specialist positions of openside flanker and hooker, with quality international experience at the club to help them develop. What we need to see is a continuation of their hard work and then for them to challenge the others in their position for a place in the team. This is particularly true of Hamish who had a good run of games at the end of the season. Both have shown that they have lots of potential but they still have a lot of hard work to do. They can look to the example of recent EDP graduates, like Matt Scott and Grant Gilchrist, who have gone on to become regulars for Edinburgh Rugby and win full international honours.”
Watson commented: “While we wanted more from our season as a club, I feel that the season past went quite well for me personally. I’ve met the targets I set in terms of game time and that’s helped me develop as a player. Hopefully, with this new deal I can build on that now.
“If we get it right I think we can have a great year and, hopefully, I’ll play well enough to be a part of it and earn the chance to stay in Edinburgh a lot longer.”
Turner added: “It’s been a frustrating year. I only played three games of rugby in the RBS Premiership last season, so I’m keen to get fit, get on the field and push for a place in the Edinburgh Rugby squad.”
Turner, who will also play for Heriot’s this season, faces a big challenge with Edinburgh having added Tongan Aleki Lutui to a stable of hookers already featuring Ross Ford, Steven Lawrie and Alun Walker.