Damien Hoyland could find Scotland tour niche at full-back as he reflects on disrupted season and coffee sideline

Five injury-interrupted years after winning his last cap Damien Hoyland has returned to the national squad and is determined to use Scotland’s tour of South America to prove he belongs at this level.

Damien Hoyland has not played for Scotland since the 2017 summer tour which included a match against Italy in Singapore. (Photo by Lionel Ng/Getty Images)
Damien Hoyland has not played for Scotland since the 2017 summer tour which included a match against Italy in Singapore. (Photo by Lionel Ng/Getty Images)

The winger/full-back spent many match-days last season selling lattes to fans from a horse box behind Edinburgh’s new stadium. Sidelined by a knee issue, Hoyland was able to indulge in his other passion and his ‘Damo’s Coffee’ stall has been a regular fixture at Edinburgh home games.

But nothing beats being back out on the pitch and the player enjoyed a strong finish to the season having returned from injury earlier than expected.

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HIs reward was a call from Gregor Townsend and Hoyland is likely to be involved on Saturday when Scotland open the tour with an A international against Chile in Santiago.

It’s been a long road to get here for Hoyland, with quite a few bumps along the way. The last two of his four caps were won on the 2017 tour, in Singapore and Suva, just after Townsend had taken charge, but he made his debut two years prior to that, in a summer Test against Italy in Turin.

“[It’s] probably not [gone] the way I would have liked with the national team, to be honest,” he said from the Scotland team’s base in the Chilean capital.

“I think I did really well to get involved seven years ago but I slipped away and had quite a lot of injuries in that period and struggled to get back in the mix. I’m really excited to be back involved now and I want to make the most of this opportunity and grab it with both hands.

“Every time you're in camp and involved with the Scotland squad it’s a chance to showcase what you’ve got. I’m here to get the best out of myself and show what I’m about, and hopefully if that goes well you never know what’ll happen. I’m a firm believer in taking it day by day and doing the best you can each day and let’s see what comes of it.”

Chile beat Canada in a Rugby World Cup qualifier last October and should not be underestimated, says Hoyland. (Photo by Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images)

A strong-running, pacy back-three player, Hoyland is comfortable on the wing or at full-back and it could be in the latter role that he finds his niche on this tour.

With Stuart Hogg given the summer off to rest and Huw Jones withdrawing on Friday with a back injury, Scotland are short at 15. The uncapped Glasgow full-back Ollie Smith is likely to see some action against Chile, and Rory Hutchinson and Darcy Graham are both capable of slotting in as the last line of defence but Hoyland impressed Townsend in the way he finished the season with Edinburgh.

“He could easily play 15 at the next level,” Townsend said. “Damo’s a great story, he’s played well this year and had two injuries that have kept him out, but he came back, and the last two games for Edinburgh I thought he was in excellent form. He played himself in, absolutely.”

Hoyland made his comeback against Ulster at the end of April and was a key figure in the run-in, most notably in the win over Glasgow Warriors in which he scored Edinburgh’s third try to help secure the 1872 Cup, Scottish-Italian Shield and a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.

Damien Hoyland trains with the Scotland squad. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

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It was a solid end to the campaign after an injury against Benetton in early December ruled him out just as he was getting into his stride. “It was a lateral meniscus tear in my left knee,” he explained. “I was out for just over five months.

“I feel that I hit some good form at the start of the season which I’ve maybe not had for the last few years, so when I got that injury I was pretty devastated. I worked pretty hard to get back to where I was, and then after that injury it probably took me a few weeks to get back into the rhythm of things.

“I was probably quite disappointed that I didn’t get to where I was as quickly as I’d thought I would, but I feel over the last couple of games I was hitting that form again that I had just before the injury. So I’ve got that confidence and my body is feeling good, so I’m just going to kick on from here hopefully.”

Damien Hoyland celebrates his try for Edinburgh against Glasgow last month with team-mate Henry Pyrgos. (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)

Working on his coffee business was a useful distraction from rehab but Hoyland was glad to get back to the day job.

“The coffee was enjoyable and it was good to do that while injured, hanging about with the fans and serving some good cups of coffee. But I’m not there to be making coffees to be honest, I’m there to be on the pitch.

“When I did eventually get back out there it was a really good feeling because I wasn’t 100 per cent sure I was going to make it back in time for the end of the season. So to get back and play again with the lads was a really nice feeling.”

Scotland have never played Chile but Hoyland was cautious when asked what he expected from a side who are currently 23rd in the World Rugby rankings.

“They’re a bloody good team,” he said. “That’s the main thing that we’ve been trying to reiterate. They’ve had some big wins - they beat Russia recently. And they’ve got some big games - they’re playing the USA [in a World Cup play-off].

“They’re obviously there or thereabouts to being a World Cup team. They’re going to be tough to play and I think it’s one we’re going to have to be ready for physically and mentally.”

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