Blair Kinghorn: Praise for in-form Edinburgh stand-off's IQ and EQ from coach who features on Fijian $7 bill
If it feels as if Blair Kinghorn’s switch to stand-off has been debated almost endlessly this season then that’s probably because it has.
The fact that he displaced Scotland icon Finn Russell at 10 for the final match of the Six Nations took the scrutiny to a new level. So it says a lot for the 24-year-old that he has continued to perform with such consistency for Edinburgh while under the spotlight.
Kinghorn was outstanding in his club’s 41-19 win over Bath on Saturday night, pulling the strings and combining beautifully with centre James Lang as the capital side came from behind three times before booking their place in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup.
The former back-three player comes across as a laid back individual and his move to the playmaker’s role has done little to change this but Edinburgh’s assistant coach Gareth Baber believes there is a depth to Kinghorn and speaks highly of his emotional intelligence.
“I’m immensely impressed by him as an individual,” said Baber who was appointed as the club’s skills and assistant attack coach in October after a highly successful stint in charge of Fiji’s Olympic-winning sevens side.
“He certainly has a casual manner about him but ultimately that’s not how he operates. His intelligence – his IQ and his EQ [emotional quotient] – in the game is particularly powerful, and his ability to create opportunities for himself and others around him, which is essentially what you want your stand-off to be doing.”
The project to transform Kinghorn into an international fly-half is being driven by Gregor Townsend and Mike Blair, the Scotland and Edinburgh head coaches respectively. No-one expected it to be an overnight success but the player is now running games at club level with a confidence that belies his lack of experience in the position.
“The work he has done with Gregor and Mike have developed his confidence in that position,” added Baber. “And he’s getting a crack at being in there for a period of time now. At the weekend against Bath, against good opposition, some good international players, he was right at the front of what we were doing and manipulating defences to ensure our strike runners were getting the width to ensure we were getting the performance we needed.
“I’m enjoying working with him, I’m enjoying what he brings into the environment and the perspective he has on his own performance and where he wants to go. I know he comes in for criticism as well but he is able to rationalise that and understand what it means for him to be able to get better as a player.”
Kinghorn’s performance is not all that has been noteworthy of late, with Baber finding himself honoured for his work with Fiji in an unusual fashion.
The coach features on the front of new Fijian $7 bills to celebrate his achievement in coaching the men’s national side to Olympic gold in Tokyo last summer.
“I think it is gold on one side to commemorate the men’s team and bronze on the other to recognise the women’s team,” he explained.
“It is a particular honour to have that happen to you, and if I get hold of some then I’ll sure to share them with you!”
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