Blair Kinghorn can succeed at 10, but Chris Paterson has a warning for Edinburgh's utility man
Blair Kinghorn will start at stand-off for Edinburgh for the fourth time in seven games this season as the capital side host Benetton in the United Rugby Championship this evening, looking to extend their winning run to four matches.
The versatile back played much of his schoolboy rugby at fly-half and the decision to convert him back to the playmaker’s role is not only being driven by his club.
Having won his previous 25 caps at either wing or full-back it was a significant moment for the 24-year-old and one Chris Paterson could readily identify with.
Scotland’s record points scorer won his first 13 caps at full-back and the next 19 on the wing. He was then selected at stand-off for the must-win match against Fiji at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, guiding the Scots to a narrow victory.
Paterson admits it’s not easy to be expected to be a Test-standard player in three different positions but he feels Kinghorn has the attributes to succeed at 10.
“I did a bit of work with him coming through the age grades and he was always a stand-off then,” said Paterson, who won 109 caps for his country. “A lot of people may only have seen him playing in the back three but he’d played a lot of rugby as a 10 before that.
“Full back and 10 complement each other really well but it’s almost as opposites. There’s definitely an alignment between the two positions.
“And when Blair plays on the wing he plays similarly to how he does at full-back. He’s good in the air and he pops up at first receiver.”
Paterson, who will be part of the Premier Sports team for their coverage of Edinburgh v Benetton, admits he found it difficult at times as he was shunted around the different roles but thinks Kinghorn can become a better player by being versatile.
“I see it as a strength because it’s not easy to do,” said the Gala man. “It’s certainly not easy to improve in three positions and one of the things I found which eventually frustrated me was that I was trying to improve in three positions when my rivals were trying to improve in one.
“It is difficult because of all the specifics of the position you have to work on. If you’re trying to cover these positions you have to tick them all off and it’s a big effort and a big commitment but I think he does it really well.
“His timing on the ball, his flow, his passing and his distribution on the whole is excellent. He’s got a real knack for playing that position. And other things you have to undertake at stand-off, like his kick-offs, have been fantastic. His penalty kicks to touch have been really good.”
Benetton are the only team to have beaten Edinburgh in the URC this season, Leonardo Marin’s last-gasp drop goal winning the game for the Italian side in Treviso in early October. They made it a Scottish double last weekend when Marin again struck late, this time with a penalty, as Benetton edged out Glasgow Warriors 19-18.
Paterson was impressed by the composure shown by the 19-year-old stand-off.
“It wasn’t really mentioned afterwards but he’d missed a similar kick just prior to that and as a goalkicker that adds even more pressure to the situation, never mind that it was the last kick of the game to win,” said Paterson. “The psychological battle for him to put right what he got wrong moments before was really impressive.”
Benetton’s transformation from Pro14 makeweights to serious contenders was crystallised by their triumph in the Rainbow Cup last season and Paterson believes Edinburgh will have to be switched on to maintain their unbeaten home league record.
“They didn’t win a game in the regular season last year and then found their feet in the Rainbow Cup which they won, and that gave them huge confidence,” he said of Marco Bortolami’s side.
“They’re the only team to have beaten Edinburgh so far this season and they’ve beaten Glasgow now as well and are three from six.
“I don’t think their attack is quite firing as well as it was at the end of last season. It’s not quite as fluid but they’ve got some brilliant players. Their wingers Monty Ioane and Ratuva Tavuyara are a real threat with ball in hand; Michele Lamaro is an outstanding back-row player who really epitomises that warrior spirit they have and Dewaldt Duvenage at nine is the crucial player who dictates the tempo. He’s the real heartbeat of the team.
“It will be a tough old game for Edinburgh.”
Magnus Bradbury will make his 100th appearance for Edinburgh tonight and switches to blindside flanker after playing at No 8 in the win over Dragons last weekend. Hamish Watson comes in at openside for his first Edinburgh appearance of the season and Viliame Mata is at No 8 in the reshaped back row.
Darcy Graham replaces Ramiro Moyano on the wing despite the Argentine’s two tries in Newport, and Grant Gilchrist returns in the second row ahead of Marshall Sykes. Dave Cherry is in for Adam McBurney at hooker.
Chris Paterson is part of the Premier Sports team bringing live TV coverage of every Edinburgh and Glasgow game home and away throughout the season in the United Rugby Championship. Premier Sports will have full live coverage of the top-billing Scottish rugby double this weekend as Edinburgh host Benetton on Friday night (Premier Sports 1 from 7pm) with Glasgow Warriors at home to Dragons on Saturday evening (Premier Sports 1 from 7pm). Chris Paterson joins Jim Hamilton, Rory Hamilton, Jamie Lyall and Emma Dodds for Edinburgh v Benetton. Find out more at www.premiersports.com.
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