By Stuart Bathgate
DANNY Wilson, the coach who led Cardiff Blues to victory in the Challenge Cup last month, will be confirmed as Scotland’s forwards coach in the coming days. Wilson had been due to join Wasps, but the English Premiership club have accepted his change of mind and will release him once a fee is agreed with Scottish Rugby.
Wilson, who has coached the Dragons and Scarlets as well as having had a spell in charge of Wales Under-20s and another as assistant at Bristol, will take over from Dan McFarland, who was announced at the end of April as the new head coach at Ulster. When McFarland’s move was made public, the SRU said the assistant coach would be held to his nine-month notice period, meaning he would stay in post as part of Gregor Townsend’s team through the Autumn Tests and almost up to the eve of the Six Nations Championship. Ulster are keen to get him in place as soon as possible, however, and agreement on compensation between the Irish province and Murrayfield is expected within the coming week.
McFarland is currently here in Texas with the Scotland squad, as is Carl Hogg, who was recruited as an assistant coach shortly after it was revealed that McFarland was due to leave. When Hogg’s appointment was announced, Townsend was asked if the former Worcester coach would still be involved by the time of the Autumn Tests. “Tba,” the head coach said. It now looks certain that Hogg will have no involvement with the national team beyond the current tour, although he may find another post within Scottish Rugby.
When Wilson does arrive, Townsend’s coaching team to go through to next year’s Rugby World Cup will be complete, with Mike Blair and Matt Taylor being the other members of the quartet. There may still be room for the involvement of other specialists, but that looks probably only on a short-term basis.
Shiel jets out
Meanwhile, newly-signed Edinburgh scrum-half Charlie Shiel has been drafted into Scotland’s touring squad in place of Ali Price. The Warriors No 9 sustained a groin injury after coming off the bench in the 48-10 win over Canada, and after further assessment once the squad moved on to Texas it was decided he should play no further part in the tour, which continues with a game against the United States here on Saturday.
Price was due to leave camp yesterday and head for home, where he will continue a programme of rehabilitation. Shiel was scheduled to arrive yesterday, fresh from making his debut for Scotland Sevens at the weekend at the Paris leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series.
George Horne, Price’s Glasgow team-mate, is expected to be at scrum-half when the team to play the USA is announced today. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, now officially a Scarlets player after leaving Edinburgh, should be on the bench.
With Lewis Carmichael, Adam Hastings, James Lang and Jamie Ritchie all having made their debuts in Edmonton, Horne and back-row forward Matt Fagerson are the only two members of the original squad to remain uncapped. Fagerson will feature at some point in Saturday’s game, with older brother Zander set to start at tighthead. Horne will also have some fraternal company in the squad, with elder sibling Pete due to start at inside centre, while Hastings should be given his first start at 10 after coming off the bench to take over from Ruaridh Jackson at the weekend.
Stuart Hogg is also set to start on Saturday after sitting out the Canada game, and the inclusion of the Glasgow player at full-back should mean a start on the wing for Blair Kinghorn – a role the Edinburgh back also fulfilled against Ireland. While 15 remains his preferred position, Kinghorn knows that greater versatility can work in his favour.
“Being in the back three, everything is linked,” the 21-year-old said yesterday. “If you’re a 15 you can play on the wing, if you’re a wing you can play at 15. The way the game is evolving it’s like having three full-backs in the back three.
“I haven’t played there much, but as I said it’s all connected up. It’s easy to pick up. I started once on the wing for Edinburgh and played there before through injury.”
The Keith Russell Affair:
Blair Kinghorn made his debut off the bench against England before that first start against Ireland, and started at 15 for the first time against Canada. Although he may not yet be ready to replace Hogg as the first-choice full-back for Scotland, he has still enjoyed a remarkably swift rise, to the extent that a national squad without him already seems implausible.
While his talent has never been in doubt, the catalyst for Kinghorn’s rapid ascent has been Richard Cockerill, the Edinburgh head coach who back in the autumn declared in no uncertain terms that his star player was nowhere near ready for Test rugby because of his tendency to make too many mistakes. “That’s how you like it,” Kinghorn said of Cockerill’s unflinchingly honest assessment of his shortcomings. “You don’t want anyone to beat around the bush.
“It helps you develop quickly and that’s what you need to do in the professional game. Sometimes it is brutal and sometimes people don’t like hearing the truth, but it teaches you the biggest lessons.”