Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn earns praise for attacking verve

His remit may be defence, but assistant coach Calum MacRae took as much pleasure as anyone at yet another bravura display of attacking verve by 20-year-old full-back Blair Kinghorn as Edinburgh made it two wins out of two in the Guinness Pro14 against Dragons last Friday.

Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn dives over to score the first try of the night against the Dragons on Friday. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn dives over to score the first try of the night against the Dragons on Friday. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

The prodigy also scored in the opening-night win at Cardiff and lit up Myreside with a series of other dashing contributions against Dragons to have expert observers tipping him for a possible first senior cap in this year’s autumn Test series.

It is hoped that Stuart Hogg can return in time to take part in those matches against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand, but Kinghorn is certainly doing his chances of being involved in Gregor Townsend’s squad no harm with a blazing start to the season.

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The Edinburgh Academical made his debut against Zebre almost two years ago, aged 18, and has since gone on to take a grip of the No 15 jersey. There were erratic performances last term in an underperforming team, but the youngster is clearly coming on leaps and bounds and MacRae waxed lyrical about that showing in the 35-18 win over Dragons.

“His talent, his ability – it was really pleasing for all the coaches to see him at the level of performance that we know he is capable of,” said the coach.

“He has real confidence at the moment and I am sure that he has focused on first and foremost playing well for Edinburgh. Off the back of that, if representative honours come, then that will come off the back of the performances he puts in in an Edinburgh jersey.”

MacRae was delighted with the try shut-out as Gavin Henson’s boot accounted for all the Welsh points, meaning that an Edinburgh defence which was breached with too much ease last season has conceded only one try in the first two games.

The man who led Scotland Sevens to a defence of their London title and a seventh-place finish in the spring was then appointed to replace Peter Wilkins as new head coach Richard Cockerill’s defence specialist.

“For me, that is purely down to attitude. If you are fully on board and desperate for the result, then you will keep putting yourself into the defensive line and keep making tackles,” the Melrose man said about the encouraging start to the season.

“I’m very pleased with the attitude of the boys, making sure that we are scrambling and making it as tough as possible for teams. We want to be a team that is tough to play against and tough to beat and there were certainly signs out there last week that we are becoming that.”

The former Borders, Edinburgh and Worcester utility back is relishing a return to the full professional game and said that developing a unified defensive culture was as important as individual details.

MacRae said: “Before going to the sevens role, I was [assistant coach] at Newcastle for three years and worked with good people there, Graham Steadman [the former rugby league international who was Scotland defence coach under Frank Hadden and Andy Robinson] for one, and a lot of it is re-familiarising myself with things, having been away from 15s.

“There are principles that still apply defensively to both types of the game, when you look to take space whenever possible away from the opposition and are as hardy as possible around the tackle and contact area.

“There has been a change up at Edinburgh and part of that is having that mentality to come in and work hard every day. Certainly on the attacking side there is a lot of detail that you will cover around certain tactical changes, but, when it comes to cultural change, you build up a hardy team around a defensive system and how efficiently you can manage the 40 metres from our ten-metre line to the try line.

“Not giving away any easy scores or easy points.”

Hopes are high that Edinburgh will make it three in a row when they host Treviso at Myreside on Friday, but MacRae was preaching caution.

“They are a hardy team upfront, all the teams in the league understand the importance of the set-piece,” he said. “Where I see threat this week is that they are very much a fluid and off-the-cuff team, so we need to be on our mettle. They like broken and unstructured play and that is where we need to make sure that we are alert at all times and any rabbit they are about to pull out of a hat, our systems should be able to cope with it.”