Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn outlines areas to improve after penning new contract and his future at stand-off

The opportunity to develop his game at stand-off for club and country convinced Blair Kinghorn to sign a new contract with Edinburgh Rugby.

Blair Kinghorn's form has helped propel Edinburgh to second place in the United Rugby Championship. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Blair Kinghorn's form has helped propel Edinburgh to second place in the United Rugby Championship. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

The player admits he has plenty to learn still as a 10 after making the switch from the back three but feels Edinburgh is the place to do it.

The move to stand-off was instigated by national coach Gregor Townsend and club boss Mike Blair and Kinghorn believes continuing to work closely with the pair will aid his progress.

“Having spoken to Gregor and Mike about it, they see real growth for me playing at 10,” he said. “And one of the big reasons for signing [the new contract] is that Mike has given me the confidence, he’s backed me. Me and Mike obviously have a good relationship. I feel like it’s the right move for me.

Blair Kinghorn's transition to stand-off has seen him take on more goalkicking duties. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

“I feel like you can see this season that the boys, the management, the whole club and the fans are pulling as one. We’re moving in a good direction.”

Edinburgh, as per SRU policy, would not disclose the length of the contract but Kinghorn revealed that the previous deal he signed was for one year only. Born and bred in the capital, the 24-year-old said he was happy to remain in his hometown rather than try his luck in the English Premiership.

“It was maybe a chance to look and broaden my horizons but I feel like with the coaching staff now, with the team that we have now and me moving to 10, it’s like a fresh start almost,” he said.

“If Gregor and Mike see my future at 10 and I’m seeing that as well and I wouldn’t want to be moving clubs and potentially not fulfilling that.”

Blair Kinghorn played at stand-off for Scotland against Tonga during the Autumn Nations Series. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Currently sidelined by a quad injury, Kinghorn has been a big part of Edinburgh’s impressive form in the first half of the season. They sit second in the United Rugby Championship, a point behind leaders Leinster, after seven rounds of fixtures and made an impressive start to their European Challenge Cup campaign by beating Saracens away.

The postponement of both 1872 Cup matches against Glasgow has denied them the chance to build on this but they hope to return to action against Cardiff at home in the URC on January 8.

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Kinghorn’s performances at stand-off have helped propel Edinburgh up the league but he acknowledges there is still room for improvement.

Blair Kinghorn has signed a new contract with his hometown club. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

“There are certain times when you see pictures, certain times when you don’t see the pictures that world-class 10s see the whole time,” he said. “Their decision-making takes a split second and they make the right decision.

“It’s when everything is right on the edge, when you’re tired and things are close, that their execution of their skills and their decision-making are on point. I’ve realised that because you get the ball so much and you make every decision, there are going to be mistakes - but try to limit the amount of mistakes that you do have.”

Stand-off is a position of strength for Scottish rugby, with Finn Russell out in front as one of the best in the world. Back-up comes from Adam Hastings, with Glasgow’s Ross Thompson also now emerging as an international class fly-half. It adds up to some stiff competition, so would Kinghorn not enhance his chances of Scotland selection by remaining at wing and full-back?

“I feel like I’ve still got the versatility to play in the back three,” he countered. “Speaking to Gregor and Mike about it and having played there in the most recent Scotland campaign, having the ability to cover 10 and the back three can be a real strength, so I’m just going to try and make myself the best 10 I can be but then still have the ability to play on the wing or at 15.”

Kinghorn, who started for Scotland at stand-off against Tonga, said working alongside the likes of Russell and Hastings during the autumn Tests helped him develop.

“Camp was a really good learning point for me - being around different people, seeing how they operate, seeing what they see in the game and different pictures of what they’re thinking, just trying to pick their brains, really,” he said

“All the boys have been really good. It’s handy having Hasto, one of my best pals - he’s an international, world-class 10, so he’s helping me along.”

Kinghorn, who played age-grade rugby at stand-off, said it had been especially instructive to study Russell at close quarters. “People say he’s a maverick but I don’t think he is,” he said. “He’s got a world class skill-set and he knows when to use it.”

Having joined Edinburgh straight from school in 2015, Kinghorn is one of the club’s most experienced players but offers an honest appraisal about what he still has to improve on as a 10.

“You get a lot of traffic, a lot of big fellas coming straight down your channel, so trying to stop them as quickly as possible is probably one of them [areas to improve on],” he said. “It’s something you don’t get too much of in the back three.

“And goalkicking. Having the pressure of that is something I’ve not experienced in a while. Kicking in training and kicking in games are two very different things. You forget about it until you kick in a game and you start getting jelly legs!

“But the more you do it, the more comfortable it feels. In the win at home against Benetton I felt pretty comfortable goalkicking. It just comes with time.

“And controlling the game is probably something that does take a little bit of time, knowing when to transfer pressure, when to play the ball and you kind of get a feel for it when you’re in it.”

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