Edinburgh’s George Taylor revels in physical side of new role

One of the most pleasing sights at BT Murrayfield on Saturday was the re-emergence of Matt Scott as the 39-times capped centre produced a match-changing cameo off the bench.
George Taylor is tackled by Glasgows Jonny Gray during the second leg of the 1872 Cup tie on Saturday. Picture: SNS/SRUGeorge Taylor is tackled by Glasgows Jonny Gray during the second leg of the 1872 Cup tie on Saturday. Picture: SNS/SRU
George Taylor is tackled by Glasgows Jonny Gray during the second leg of the 1872 Cup tie on Saturday. Picture: SNS/SRU

The 29-year-old, who is back at his home city team after a stint at Gloucester, has suffered a long-term concussion injury and subsequent niggles but looked back to his best during Edinburgh’s 29-19 1872 Cup-levelling win over Glasgow in front of a record 27,437 BT Murrayfield crowd.

George Taylor was the centre who made way for Scott in the 56th minute and watched on as the Test star made a magnificent impact. The strength of Edinburgh’s collective team spirit shone, though, as the 23-year-old Borderer heaped praise on his replacement.

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“Credit to Matt, he played really well when he came on. He’s been struggling with his rib recently and he was wanting to get some good game time, so yeah, he did well,” said the Melrose man, who has enjoyed an impressive season so far and looks sure to play a continuing role over the next few months.

“I’ve been happy. Other boys have been injured but there’s still competition there,” added the former Earlston High Shool and Loretto pupil. “I’ve needed to be looking over my shoulder and still putting in decent performances, still training hard.

“After pre-season it didn’t seem like I would play much this season. I didn’t get any game time in pre-season against Ospreys or London Scottish and that was quite hard to take. But I spoke to Cockers [Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill] and he kind of gave me the opportunity to play 12, and I trained there leading up to the weeks before the first Pro14 games.

“I was on the bench and took my opportunity from there.”

They may well be rivals for his starting jersey but Taylor welcomes the opportunity to work alongside seasoned international midfielders such as Scott and Mark Bennett.

“It’s been so good training alongside Mark and Matt. They’ve been there and done it, so I was just gathering up all the experience I can from them,” said Taylor.

He is now settled that his future lies down the inside centre channel. “When I went to speak to him [Cockerill], he said, ‘you’re a 13. I’m not going to drop Mark Bennett or Jimmy Johnstone’. And I said I can play 12. He [Cockerill] said, ‘I didn’t know that’. So he gave me the opportunity to train there and he was pleased with what he saw. Now he knows!

“After playing so much at 12 now I’ll take that jersey. But I enjoy 13 with more space and time on the ball. Playing 12 is a lot more physical, and I enjoy that aspect of the game.”

Scott, pictured, is very much back in the mix but Taylor hopes to still play a role when Edinburgh resume their Guinness Pro14 campaign, in which they lie second in Conference B, against the Southern Kings on Saturday night.

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“I feel more integrated in the squad. You have respect and trust from guys around you,” said Taylor. “For team chemistry it’s good they’re not worrying about someone new coming in and making mistakes. It’s a lot easier for me now knowing I can slot in and do a job.

“Training is the hardest because you’re knocking your pan in every day and knowing you won’t probably get selected at the weekend. It’s mentally demanding all the time but you have to keep on track and focused.

“If you slacken off then boys ahead of you will progress. I came from Melrose, didn’t get a lot of a game time last year and felt quite fresh, but maybe not as comfortable going into games because I’ve not had the exposure to match fitness and physicality. But now it’s great because I’ve had that week in and week out.”

Taylor laughs when asked about team-mate and fellow centre Bennett’s theory that he is more suited to the full-back position, “In my younger years I did a bit of 15, but Mark’s probably told Cockers that! But when we’re both on the pitch or I’m on the bench I’ve been covering full-back. I’ve spoken to Hodgey [assistant attack coach Duncan Hodge] and Cockers about it and they’re happy for me to do that. Mark’s probably not wanting to cover full-back himself to be honest.

“It’s something I can do but I’m not looking to progress my game at that position.”

Professional rugby is a tough school and Taylor appreciates that he has to fight for a career.

“I’m happy I went to speak to Cockers, it was a tough thing to do that and quite daunting,” he explained. “In the light of things it was the right decision. When I went, he said he appreciated me going to speak to him and clearing up that I could do several positions.

“It was all from my annoyance and not getting game time at pre-season that I asked to speak to him. I wanted to see where I stood in the squad. He explained things, he’s always straight-up, a very honest man. Was I waiting nervously outside his office before knocking? Yeah, for a while!

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“I’ve spoken quite a lot to Chris Dean, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott. They’ve said ‘look, your opportunity will come, there will be injuries’, and I listen to them because they’ve been through it. They helped me a lot, and obviously they were right.”