The Edinburgh player who may be converted to stand-off yet again

Mike Blair sees Blair Kinghorn as a viable option for Edinburgh at stand-off this season and thinks the versatile back can deliver the X-factor in the playmaker’s role.

Blair Kinghorn impressed at stand-off in the pre-season friendly against Benetton. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
Blair Kinghorn impressed at stand-off in the pre-season friendly against Benetton. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

Kinghorn had a run-out at 10 in the pre-season friendly against Benetton and impressed his coach in the 50-29 victory.

The 24-year-old has won 25 Scotland caps on the wing or at full-back but played his schoolboy rugby at stand-off and enjoys being able to influence play more at 10.

Previous coach Richard Cockerill picked Kinghorn at fly-half in a handful of games in the second half of last season and Blair liked what he saw.

Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn believes the versatility of being able to play 10, both wings and 15 can only be a positive. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

“He’s such a talented player that I don’t think it takes much for him to move between positions,” said the new Edinburgh coach, who took over in July.

“You saw that game [last season] against Scarlets for example where he played at 10. He’d only played one game at 10 that season and he ran the show. Yeah, there were a couple of things that are a bit clunky but he looked like he’d played 10 all his life, so he’d definitely got that ability to be able to do that.”

Blair’s other options at stand-off are Jaco van der Walt, who made his international debut for Scotland last season, Charlie Savala, the inexperienced but lively former Aussie rugby league player, and Nathan Chamberlain, who has been playing Super6 rugby for Heriot’s this season.

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Kinghorn, with his pace and skill-set, offers something different, even if he lacks game-time in the position.

“I just think he’s got a lot of skills that tick the box of a 10 and he’s got X-factor as well,” said Blair. “There were a couple of things in the game on Saturday that didn’t quite come off but I’m looking at things from a positive side and he’s seeing that space and you’ll get some 10s that don’t. He’s got that ability and you can’t coach that. So a little bit of time in the saddle and we’ll see a good improvement.”

The one potential concern is whether playing at stand-off could negatively affect Kinghorn’s international prospects. It’s a point not lost on Blair.

“I think from a national point of view he sees it as easier to break into the national team as a back three,” said the coach. “But he said to me he was comfortable playing anywhere where I thought it would benefit Edinburgh the most.”

Kinghorn believes gaining experience at 10 will make him a more rounded player.

“If you’re playing good rugby in any position you try and force your way into the national squad,” he said. “But having the versatility of being able to play 10, both wings and 15 could be something really positive for me. It’s another string to my bow.

“It’s a lot easier [playing at 10] with front-foot ball, with quick ball, when everything’s moving forwards. But it gets a bit sticky when maybe you’ve got slower ball or you’re playing into the wind or rain. That’s when you’ve got to control territory a little bit more, use your kicking game a bit more. Those are all things you learn through time, practice and by studying film to get more of a feel for that side of the game.”

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