Charlie Shiel on the three-way battle for the Edinburgh No 9 jersey and learning from Henry Pyrgos and Nic Groom

Son of former Scotland centre Graham is an exciting prospect but is aware he has a lot to learn at the highest level

Charlie Shiel in action for Edinburgh during the Guinness Pro14 match between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors at BT Murrayfield last month. Pictures: Ross Parker/SRU/SNS

At one point during conversation with the media this week ahead of Edinburgh’s 2020-21 Guinness Pro14 opener against Ospreys at BT Murrayfield tomorrow night up-and-coming scrum-half Charlie Shiel uses the phrase “as you get older”.

It certainly raised a few eyebrows among the wizened old journalists on the Zoom call as he is only 22 years old after all, but Shiel has been “hothoused” of late and had to mature quickly to secure a future in the professional game.

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A popular player among the fans for his flair and pace he is one that could well continue Scotland’s proud tradition of producing high-quality scrum-halves. The recruitment freeze brought on by the pandemic has presented an opportunity to youngsters like Shiel but he has had to prove himself in the heat of battle and convince head coach Richard Cockerill - not a man to be swayed by popularity contests - that he has what it takes to command a more regular place in a pivotal position.

Charlie's dad Graham won 18 caps for Scotland, including this one against Western Samoa at Murrayfield in the 1991 World Cup. Picture: SNS

So far, so good of late as Shiel has been handed starts against Glasgow last month and Bordeaux-Begles in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final. In the first game upon rugby’s resumption last month he came off the bench to score a splendid match-clinching late try against the Warriors as Edinburgh kept hold of the 1872 Cup.

“It’s been pretty good for me. Obviously it’s a goal of mine to get more gametime and as you get older you want to progress with your game and you’re looking to get those starts,” said the former Scotland Under-20s No 9 who has worked himself up through the ranks with the Edinburgh academy and playing club rugby with Currie.

“Especially for me with the previous games I started being Agen and Cardiff, so not massive games. The rivalry of the 1872 Cup and then Bordeaux in a European quarter-final is a big stage so to get those two starts was cool.

“This is my third season now so it’s probably about time to step up. Honestly I’ve got Henry Pyrgos and Nic Groom around me who are quality nines. Personally for me it’s a goal to step up and get more game time and do the best in the role I have.”

Experienced Scotland scrum-half Pyrgos is still working his way back from a concussion issue and Groom is handling a niggle so Shiel is primed to be handed the No 9 jersey again after Cockerill announces his team for the Ospreys clash at noon today.

Shiel is under no illusions that he still has much to learn at the top level, something Cockerill has been keen to emphasise.

“For me, it’s more the leadership side of things and the tactical side of the game,” said Shiel. “When you come up through the age-grades and playing club rugby, as a scrum-half, you’re basically there to pass the ball and run.

“That’s where a lot of my game is, with my passing and my running. I find that easier than the kicking side of the game. That’s one of the areas I still need to develop. It’s also about demanding things and barking at these big Scotland international guys around the pitch. It’s that sort of control that I’ve been trying to work on.

“It’s like anything else. The more you’re exposed to it and the more you experience it, then the more you’ll develop it.

“The two games against Glasgow and Bordeaux which I started in have been massive for me. They were two huge games against big teams. But it still comes down to experience and exposure. The best thing I can do is just keep practising things in training and hopefully get that level of trust from the coaches.

“I want to show that I can play a full 80 minutes and a full game. I want to show I can do the same as what the other two guys [Pyrgos and Groom] can do, if not more.”

Shiel is the son of former Scotland, Melrose and Edinburgh centre Graham Shiel, who is now head coach of Boroughmuir Bears in the Super 6, and junior said: “To be fair, he’s quite good. He helps out every so often.

“A lot of the game has changed since he played but I still talk to him quite a lot and he helps out in that sense, but he’s good for just letting me get on with it, and letting the coaches do what they do. But he is a great help to me.”

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