Scotland Under-20 stand-off Nathan Chamberlain will make his first start for Edinburgh in Friday’s Guinness Pro14 match against Glasgow at BT Murrayfield and head coach Richard Cockerill is looking forward to seeing how the youngster copes in the pivotal role up against Scotland international Adam Hastings.
The 20-year-old, who joined from Bristol Bears in the summer, was the star of the show in the last major rugby match to be played before the coronavirus shutdown in March when he scored a hat-trick and kicked all his goals in a stunning 52-17 win by Scotland Under-20s against Wales in Colwyn Bay.
Now Chamberlain will start in the first British rugby match to host fans as he dons the No 10 jersey for Edinburgh in a pilot event that will see 700 home season ticket holders in attendance. He will be partnered at half-back by another up-and-coming youngster as 21-year-old Charlie Shiel earns his second start for the club at No 9 after his brilliant try off the bench at the end of last weekend’s 30-15 win over Glasgow. With a home Pro14 semi-final against Ulster a week on Saturday, Cockerill has made ten changes to his starting XV but has retained depth with wing Darcy Graham and flanker Magnus Bradbury back from injury as well as frontline stars like Duhan van der Merwe, Hamish Watson and Bill Mata all in the team.
On Chamberlain, who had a five-minute cameo as a debut late in the game last Saturday, Cockerill said: “He needs to play. We need to see where he is at in his development.
“If he comes through, which I’m sure he will because there are some really good bits about his game, it will be a really good experience for him against one of the international 10s for Scotland – he’s against a good backline and he’s got to marshal our backline with some internationalists involved. Our half-backs have got a big job to do tomorrow night and everyone is keen to see how Charlie will run a game when he starts, and that is going to be a good challenge and more experience for him.”
With the departure of Simon Hickey earlier in the year, stage 3 academy player Chamberlain now finds himself as second-choice stand-off to Jaco van der Walt, who is on the bench tonight, and will need to get up to speed soon.
“He’s mentally very good. His last game was against Wales when he scored a hat-trick for the Under-20s and kicked every goal,” continued Cockerill.
“He’s a confident young man, he’s still a bit quiet because he’s learning what it is all about. He’s got a good kicking game and it is just about whether in the heat of battle he can think and react quickly enough, and I’m sure Glasgow are going to put us under enough pressure to see with how he copes. I’m sure he will cope with it.”
Cockerill said he was relieved to have his future dealt with after agreeing a two-year contract extension through to 2023. “I arrived three years ago and I remember us all sitting together and I said what I was going to do and you all raised your eyebrows and thought: ‘Here’s another bloke who thinks he can turn this club around’,” he said. “And I think we’ve done that: we’ve got a great team of coaches and a good group of players who are working hard and getting better. My family is here, they are very settled, I’m enjoying the job and the challenge and it is going well.
“Myself and [SRU chief executive] Mark Dodson have a good, robust relationship. We have some very good, honest, frank conversations around how things should be done, which we don’t always agree on, and it works well. I trust what Mark is doing. The union showed faith in hiring me.”
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