The inclusion of the 22-year-old second row in a preliminary group of 34 for the opening Autumn Test against the All Blacks lets a welcome shaft of light into the beleaguered Edinburgh set-up at the moment but the player admits he owes much to a spell playing in New Zealand last year. “If I hadn’t gone on that Macphail scholarship to Christchurch I would not have had the season I had with Edinburgh, culminating in a Heineken European Cup semi-final appearance,” said Gilchrist. “I returned really fit and the timing could not have been any better.
“Also, while I was in New
Zealand, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time in the company of current All Black Sam Whitelock.”
Whitelock went on to help New Zealand win the World Cup last year but at the beginning of his momentous season was happy to share knowledge with Gilchrist, who recalled: “Sam started out at the Lincoln University club I was attached to. While I was there he had a spell out injured and would go over clips of games in which I played pointing things out. On one occasion we went out for some food to talk through a few things. To spend so much time getting one-to-one advice from an established All Black was pretty special.
“I even played a match alongside Sam when he was preparing to return to the professional game after his injury.”
Although Gilchrist, 22, is one of five locks chosen as Scotland coach Andy Robinson seeks cover for the injured Richie Gray, it is not inconceivable he could find himself up against Whitelock on November 11 at Murrayfield.
If that were to happen it would be meteoric progress for the former Scotland under-19 captain who only debuted for Edinburgh in the opening match of last season and whose pro CV amounts to 30 starts and three bench appearances.
However, Gilchrist will take any promotion in his stride.
“As a wee boy I always wanted to play for Scotland and when we reached the European semi-final I felt I was probably closer than I had been before,” he said.
“You hope to keep playing well but whatever the circumstances when you get the call, as I did from Andy Robinson on Tuesday night, it comes as a shock. But in a good way.”
Originally from Alloa, the 6ft 7in and 18st 7lbs Gilchrist comes from sound rugby stock: “My dad played for the club as did my grandad before him. And I had uncles in the team I used to watch while growing up.”