It has been a pretty miserable season on both a personal and collective level but, perhaps contrarily, that made Grant Gilchrist even more determined to commit his future to Edinburgh.
The Scotland lock’s new two-year deal with the struggling capital team was confirmed yesterday and the 26-year-old from Alloa certainly hopes the next couple of years hold more positive experiences than the last.
From the moment he was named Scotland captain by Vern Cotter for the 2014 autumn Test series almost nothing has gone right for Gilchrist. A bad arm break meant that he didn’t feature in that campaign and he has suffered more misfortune since, with a groin injury ending his 2015 World Cup and a further broken arm a few months later consigning him to the sidelines for months yet again.
This season the second row has struggled for form and a place in the Edinburgh starting XV but he is optimistic that better days lie ahead. Highly rated by Cotter, who brought him straight back into the Scotland team when Richie Gray was injured for the final Six Nations match against Italy, Gilchrist was, at one stage, linked with a move to French giants Toulon before more injury woe was visited upon him.
“In the end it was an easy decision,” said the player of the new contract. “I had signed a one-year deal going into this year because that suited both me and the club after a long spell injured.
“Getting out and playing a decent amount of rugby has been positive. I’ve made it clear that Edinburgh is my home club and the way the season has gone has made me even more determined to stay because I care deeply about the club and I know there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done to get us to where we should be and I want to be part of that.
“I don’t want to leave this club feeling that we were not in a great position, that was my thought process. I am delighted to sign for two years.”
Gilchrist said he had not spoken yet with incoming head coach Richard Cockerill, who is Toulon’s caretaker coach until the end of the season, but was looking forward to working with the former England hooker and Leicester chief.
“No, he has got a job to do till the end of the season. I am looking forward to seeing what he brings,” he said. “I have heard good things but I have not personally spoken to him. When he does come, I will be looking to get my head down like everybody else and prove myself. That is what you need to do when a new coach comes in. You don’t have a reputation – you have to prove yourself first and foremost.”
The 16-times capped forward is the first to admit that his form has been below par this season, although he is not the only Edinburgh player that would apply to. He was selected as a co-captain alongside hooker Stuart McInally by Alan Solomons before his departure at the start of the season but both have toiled for selection and veteran Ross Ford has assumed the captaincy as a disappointing season has lurched on, with a bottom versus ninth clash away to Treviso tomorrow up next.
“Circumstances have been what they have been,” said Gilchrist. “I was pretty honest about my form mid-season which was not great. I have battled hard to get back towards the Six Nations and in the last few weeks I have started to feel I was getting back to where I was.
“I am coming back from two years of being out a lot, I assumed it would be easy but it was not – it was hard work to get back to full sharpness. It has taken longer than I thought. I feel I am in a good place now but our club is well served, we have got injuries in certain positions but the second row is not one of them. It has not been an area where we have shown weakness and I can understand the coaches, who have a hard decision to make week-in, week-out.
“All I can do is make sure I play well when I come on or when I start and make sure that I do it all for the club. I would rather start every week but at the moment I need to make sure I am at that standard, that is my goal.”
For all the frustrations of the season, Gilchrist, as much as anyone, knows it could be worse.
“I would much rather be playing than be injured,” he said. “In the past I have not been able to do anything about it. I would love things to be going well and everything to be hunky-dory but sometimes that is not what life is like. It has been tough but I have learned a lot.”