Edinburgh scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne couldn’t hide his disappointment as he faced the media after being left out of Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad for next month’s autumn Tests against Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
The 24-year-old, who has been capped nine times, was widely tipped to be the third No 9 in the pool, joining the Glasgow pair of Ali Price and Henry Pyrgos after national skipper Greig Laidlaw was ruled out with a broken ankle.
In the end, Townsend opted instead for Hidalgo-Clyne’s clubmate Nathan Fowles.
“It’s obviously very disappointing. I’ve just got to grit my teeth and get on with it,” said Hidalgo-Clyne. “I got a call from Gregor the night before the squad was named, which was nice of him to call me and give me some feedback on what he thought. I’ve just got to keep working on it and look to play well. I feel like I’m playing well for Edinburgh.”
After appearing to be No 1 choice at Edinburgh a couple of years ago as he starred in the run to the European Challenge Cup final and won a place in the World Cup squad, Hidalgo-Clyne has since been locked in a battle with Fowles and Sean Kennedy for ownership of the No 9 jersey at club level.
New coach Richard Cockerill has gone with him more times than most this season but Hidalgo-Clyne revealed that Townsend told him of improvements he wants to see before he gets back in the international reckoning.
“He told me I was playing my best rugby of the season. He also told me what he wanted and what he expects from all the other scrum-halves and things I need to work on,” said the former Merchiston Castle pupil. “He wants a few more games like last week [against Krasny Yar, in which he scored a try].
“I’ll probably keep most of it [the conversation] to myself but it’s the same as what he wants from all nines. He wants fast tempo, good service and speed to breakdown. That’s pretty much it. The ins and outs I’ll keep to myself but he’s been pretty clear what he wants from everyone to be honest.
“I’ve got to focus on what I need to do in the coming weeks to put me in good stride for Edinburgh and Scotland.”
Hidalgo-Clyne refuses to accept that the competition he has faced at Edinburgh has hindered his Scotland prospects.
“It probably helps to be honest,” is his take. “You want competition to be as good as you can. If it’s easy and you’re No 1 you can become complacent. Having that competition is just going to make me a wee bit more eager to strive for that jersey.
“You’re always gutted and upset for the first couple of days. But once you’re over the hill you just accept it and set yourself goals you want to achieve.”
Despite the fierce rivalry for selection, the scrum-half trio at Edinburgh have a close bond and Hidalgo-Clyne insisted he was delighted for Rochdale-born Fowles, who qualifies for Scotland through an Edinburgh grandfather.
“Yeah I spoke to him and congratulated him,” said Hidalgo-Clyne. “I think it’s awesome. He’s worked hard all season. Look, we all work together in training. It’s not one of these things I’m going to be spiteful about.
“Obviously I’m going to be gutted but he’s earned his spot and if I get my opportunity for Edinburgh this weekend I’ll look to put my marker down again and keep Gregor thinking.
“Gregor has made it quite clear what he’s looking for. He’s wanting to play the fastest tempo rugby in the world. So you look at the players he’s going to put into that team and what he wants. They [the Scotland coaching team] have got high expectations and are looking in great detail at all the players.”
Hidalgo-Clyne switched to stand-off in the 73-14 win over the Siberian side in Moscow at the weekend when Jason Tovey went off, teaming up with Fowles. Ironically, there might be less competition in that position than there is at No 9 at present.
“Yeah, give me a call-up,” said Hidalgo-Clyne with a smile. “No, listen if I’m needed there for Edinburgh I’m more than happy to do it. Duncy [Weir] will be coming back I’m sure in the next few weeks [from an abdominal injury]. Toves is hopefully fine this weekend but we’ll find out. We have other players that can slot into that position but if they need me I’ll do the job.”
Hidalgo-Clyne is now hoping for a swift opportunity to get the Scotland setback out of his system with selection for tomorrow’s trip to face Benetton in Treviso.
“It’s an important game. We’ve done a lot of detail on Treviso,” he said of the side who shocked them at Myreside in the middle of September.
“We fell short to them at home. More through our mistakes than them but I think they have improved vastly the last couple of seasons.
“They’re a pretty good team who have been getting good results or close to good results. We’ll certainly not take them lightly. We have a gameplan to squeeze out a win in a tough place to go to.
“We’ve lost to them over there before so we have to have the right mindset.”