Richard Cockerill backs Blair Kinghorn to fill Hogg void for Scotland

Blair Kinghorn provides good cover on the wing, says Richard Cockerill. Picture: SNS/SRU.
Blair Kinghorn provides good cover on the wing, says Richard Cockerill. Picture: SNS/SRU.
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Blair Kinghorn is learning all the time at international level and would do a fine job were he required to start at full-back for Scotland in the remainder of the Guinness Six Nations matches, according to his mentor at club level.

Scotland’s first-choice full-back, Stuart Hogg, suffered a shoulder ligament injury in the 22-13 round two defeat by Ireland at the weekend and a will be assessed by a specialist this week before a programme of rehabilitation is established.

If the news on Glasgow Warriors’ Hogg is not positive, then 22-year-old Edinburgh man Kinghorn, pictured, who came on in the first half against Rory Best’s men, would be in pole position to start in the No 15 jersey away to France on 23 February and against Wales (9 March) and England (16 March).

Edinburgh Rugby head coach Richard Cockerill said: “All exposure is good for the guys, especially the younger guys. There’s more responsibility on Blair now. If Stuart Hogg is not fit, then his favourite position at full-back becomes available and he’ll take even more responsibility [with the national team].

“Every time you play you learn a bit more about yourself, so it can only be good for the medium to long term if he is put in these situations.

“After the loss at the weekend Scotland want their best players on the field, but there’s a lot of injuries across both pro teams at the moment.

“For us Blair’s a very good attacker and Scotland are blessed to have two very good full-backs. Blair gives good cover on the wing so you can understand why he’s in the 23.

“When everybody is fit there is clearly strength in depth, but at the moment Scotland are stretched a bit and that depth is being tested.

“The tournament has been so far so good for Blair. Obviously he had a great start in the first game [scoring a hat-trick of tries against Italy] and I thought he did pretty well when he came on at the weekend.

“I am pleased for him, he is performing pretty well and it was small margins in that game against Ireland.”

Cockerill’s immediate concern is keeping Edinburgh’s Guinness Pro14 play-off hopes alive, starting at home to the Dragons this Friday night.

For the crucial match 
Cockerill will be able to call on second-row Ben Toolis after Scotland duty, but the likes of Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie and Kinghorn are likely to sit this one out.

Another man set to be in the stands on Friday as he continues to deal with an ongoing concussion issue is Matt Scott. The 28-year-old centre has been out since October and the head coach said: “Matt is still recovering from concussion.

“It is a very ‘on topic’ injury just now and we don’t know enough about it and, if guys are still having a little bit of symptoms around headaches, you need to measure what is wrong.”

Back-row Luke Hamilton, too, has an ongoing concussion problem while centre Mark Bennett could return away to Benetton at the start of next month and Lewis Carmichael (ACL) is out for the season.

With Magnus Bradbury making a timely return after four months out and the likes of hooker David Cherry, centre Chris Dean and back-row Luke Crosbie back unscathed from Scotland training, Edinburgh can still put out a strong squad. And they will be looking to bounce back from the 25-21 loss to the Southern Kings at the end of January.

“I don’t think we took the Kings for granted, we just made a mess of it,” Cockerill stated. “These three games coming up in the next few weeks are pivotal for us. Everyone is very close.

“The Dragons, Cardiff [23 February] and Benetton [2 March] are all vital games for the push for the top three in Conference B. We can’t afford to slip up as we still have Ulster and the Scarlets to play. We also have Leinster and Glasgow so there are some tough games to come.

“This weekend we’ll be pretty strong, but the attrition rate at the moment is hard and there are a lot of injuries. It is a very important three weeks for us.”