James Lang: How centre was left in limbo by Cockerill exit and why Edinburgh move can boost his cap chances after Harlequins frustrations

There was a moment in the summer when James Lang was forced to question his decision to move from Harlequins to Edinburgh. Having opted to leave the freshly crowned kings of English rugby, the Scotland centre was alarmed to discover that the coach who signed him had parted company with the Murrayfield club.

James Lang has signed for Edinburgh and is keen to establish himself at inside centre. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
James Lang has signed for Edinburgh and is keen to establish himself at inside centre. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Lang is honest enough to admit that Richard Cockerill’s sudden departure caused “panic stations”.

“I won’t lie. There were a couple of days when I was in limbo,” said Lang. “I didn’t know who was coming in and I was a little bit agitated. It was panic stations. You sign for a club, for a coach, and then that coach leaves and then what if the next coach comes in and, you know, ‘I am not part of his plans or he doesn’t like me’. That all goes through my mind.

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“I messaged my agent and said, ‘Mate, do something! Try and find out who is coming in.’”

James Lang, centre, celebrates with Joe Marchant and Luke Northmore after Harlequins' victory over Exeter in the Gallagher Premiership final at Twickenham. Picture: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

The swift appointment of Mike Blair as Cockerill’s replacement allayed Lang’s fears, with the new man well known to the player through his previous role as Scotland assistant coach.

“When Mike got the position I dropped him the message straight away. I got on well with Mike in camp and with Scotland . After that I was buzzing to get started with the team. Under his coaching style the team and myself will really thrive.”

Lang is hoping Blair will play a fast, attacking brand of rugby similar to the one adopted by Harlequins in the second half of last season as they rampaged to a historic Gallagher Premiership triumph.

Much as he enjoyed being a part of the successful Quins squad, Lang was frustrated not to play a fuller part. One of the key motivating factors behind his move to Edinburgh is the desire to establish himself as a regular starting inside centre. Having found himself shunted about in different positions at the Stoop, he is hoping that a run in the No 12 jersey can also enhance his international chances.

James Lang is hoping his move to Edinburgh will enhance his Scotland chances. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
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“I spent five years at Quins and I loved playing there but it was very stop-start with game time and moving round positions,” he explained. “I had to look at where I would fit and where I would progress the most.

“I have aspirations to play for my country a lot more. In order to do that I have to play in my best position which is centre and I felt making the move to come up here would help me pursue my goals.”

Lang spoke with Gregor Townsend before making the move and will hope to catch the eye of the national coach ahead of the autumn Test series. His last cap came in the narrow home defeat by Wales in February, his only outing in this year’s Six Nations. He was part of the squad for Scotland’s summer tour only for the matches against Romania and Georgia to be called off due to Covid.

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Having played his part in Harlequins’ thrilling 43-36 extra-time win over Bristol in the Premiership semi-final, Lang was left out of the squad for the final against Exeter at Twickenham. It was a frustrating moment for the centre and one which helped convince him the move to Edinburgh was the right one.

“I missed out on the final which was a tough pill to swallow really,” he said. “And yeah, that is one of the reasons I want to play more. I haven’t played a great deal at centre over the last two years and I know to play for my country I have to play for my club. I want that. That was a massive factor about leaving. Work my way into a team and this is the place for me to do it.”

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