Rugby: Edinburgh trio fight for No 9 spot

With first-choice scrum-half Greig Laidlaw having moved on to pastures new, there are a trio of talented number nines eager to make the jersey their own this season at Edinburgh.

Grayson Hart, left, Sean Kennedy, centre, and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will be aiming to shine in friendly matches. Pictures: SNS/SRU

Grayson Hart, 26, Sean Kennedy, 23, and 21-year-old Sam Hidalgo-Clyne all want to be named in head coach Alan Solomons’ starting line-up for the opening Guinness PRO12 match away to Munster on 5 September.

And they will be using game time in the upcoming friendlies against Leicester Tigers on Saturday and Newcastle Falcons on 29 August to stake their claims.

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Hart, who is currently nursing an elbow injury, may well be favourite to be the number one choice given he is the eldest of the trio and acquired Scotland caps under his belt over the 
summer, but Solomons has talked in glowing terms about what Kennedy and Hidalgo-Clyne can bring to the party too.

The dislocated elbow looks set to rule Hart out of this 
weekend’s match, but he has 
targeted the Falcons encounter and has used his three weeks out injured wisely.

The former New Zealand age-grade cap said: “It hasn’t been a great time to be injured, but it has allowed me to do a lot of speed work and that will help me around the park getting to rucks when the season starts.

“The summer tour was great for me personally and being exposed to the international level has left me hungry for more and has also shown me some 
weaknesses in my game that I need to work on.

“In terms of the competition for the number nine spot, 
between the three of us, I think it is great because we are all slightly different players who offer something different while we also work hard as a group and I guess we all want to give the coaches a selection 

Hart has also been impressed by what he has seen from new EDP scrum-halves Alex Glashan, 20, and Hugh Fraser, 18, in 
training in recent weeks.

Glashan has joined from the Scotland Sevens set-up with Fraser coming straight from Merchiston Castle School and Hart believes they too will offer good cover if required over what is a long campaign.

Kennedy had a good run of matches at the start of last season when Laidlaw was injured and he is hoping to hit the ground running again.

He explained: “The pre-season has been tough and we have been worked really hard so everyone is feeling the benefits and are keen to get out on the pitch.

“There is only so much you can learn off the field so I am excited and hopeful I get run-outs in the next fortnight. I think the competition between Grayson, Sammy and myself is really healthy and is helping us all 
become better players.

“With a number of new stand-offs coming in too [Tom Heathcote and Phil Burleigh] and Greig Tonks fit again, it means there are a lot of exciting combinations to be put to the test in a competitive environment.

“For me personally it is all about stringing a run of matches together and with such a great atmosphere around the place at the moment, this is a starting XV we all want to be a part of.”

Hidalgo-Clyne, who turned 21 earlier this month, has had a slightly frustrating pre-season, but he is raring to go now.

A knee injury suffered at the end of 2013/14 meant that he had to rest up for much of the summer, but over the last fortnight he has stepped up his training.

He first came to the attention of many capital rugby fans as a stand-off in the Merchiston Castle School first team before impressing with Scotland Sevens and gaining a good grounding at the pro club as an EDP.

He recalls: “At first I found the move to scrum-half quite challenging as you have to think differently than a stand-off, but I have grown to love the position and I think spending a summer in New Zealand last year [on the Macphail Scholarship] definitely helped me.

“Last season I enjoyed the game time that I got and this term I really want to kick on and show what I can do. Myself, Grayson and Sean are all good friends and we spend a lot of time with each other to help us all work on our strengths and weaknesses.

“Everyone in the squad is buzzing at the moment and looking forward to the friendlies so we can show the coaching team what we have got in our lockers.”

Meanwhile, Edinburgh have brought Ben Atiga, the former All Black, back into the squad to help cover the centre positions for this season.

Winger/full-back Max McFarland, who has played for 
Ireland Under-20s, has been added to the EDP roster. He is eligible to represent Scotland through his grandfather.