Jim Hamilton eyes move to Gloucester as French switch stalls

SCOTLAND forward Jim Hamilton is leaving Edinburgh this summer and appears set for a return to the Guinness Premiership if he can broker a deal to join the healthy Scottish contingent at Gloucester.

The 6ft 8in lock has been in talks for over a month with clubs in England and France, most prominently Gloucester in the Guinness Premiership and Stade Francais in the Top 14. The French media suggested yesterday that Stade had secured the 27-year-old, but The Scotsman understands that Hamilton pulled out of talks with the cash-strapped Parisien club and has turned his attention to other suitors.

Gloucester are leading the chase, albeit with a reduced budget this season. They have lost Italian skipper Marco Bortolami to one of the new Italian pro teams being created with a good deal of funding to enter the Magners League while Adam Eustace is also leaving for Northampton, so the Kingsholm club is struggling for second row experience.

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Their coaching team of Bryan Redpath and Carl Hogg are also happier to sign Scots knowing they may not be available during international windows and are known to be in discussions with Hamilton's agent in an effort to add him to a Scots roster that includes current tour team-mates Rory Lawson, Alasdair Strokosch, Alasdair Dickinson and Scott Lawson. However, as was witnessed recently when Andy Robinson was forced to prepare his squad for Argentina without the existing Gloucester quartet, Hamilton's move would put another of his squad members into the grip of Premiership Rugby Ltd (PRL).

The player is currently with Robinson's Scotland squad in Buenos Aires and unavailable for comment as he prepares for what would be a historic first-ever Test series win over Argentina if they could replicate Saturday's victory this weekend in the coast resort of Mar Del Plata.

Hamilton has forced his way back into the side with Nathan Hines being unavailable for the tour, and remains convinced his near-20 stone frame can remain a potent weapon as Scotland look to make an impact in Robinson's second year as coach, and in build-up to the 2011 World Cup. He was a key part of Scotland's victory in Tucuman, working in tandem with skipper Alastair Kellock to dominate the lineout and provide a regular stream of possession for Scotland. Hamilton still has a year of his current three-year contract remaining, but The Scotsman understands that he is keen to leave and the club unwilling to stand in his way.

As we reported ten days ago, Edinburgh have already recruited a replacement in the shape of Argentine Esteban Lozada, the 28-year-old Pumas lock forward, whose signing from Toulon is expected to be announced in the coming weeks providing he clears the necessary medical and contract hurdles.

The days of another Scot reared in the Premiership, prop David Young, also seem to be numbered at Edinburgh with the club yesterday announcing the signing of tighthead prop Jack Gilding to add to that of fellow youngster Lewis Niven. At 19st 3lbs, Gilding is a formidable figure and having just turned 22 he fits into the plans of Edinburgh coaches Rob Moffat and Tom Smith to build a competitive squad in coming years around fresh talent.

He was born in Plymouth, but qualifies for Scotland through a grandmother from Greenock. Gilding has played ten games for Worcester Warriors in the past two seasons and played at Moseley under Ian Smith, another ex-internationalist who has been helping to promote Scots-qualified talent in England.