CURRIE CHIEFTAINS scrum-half Charlie Shiel has become the latest home-grown prospect to join the Richard Cockerill revolution at Edinburgh. The 20-year-old son of former Scotland centre Graham Shiel and grandson of former Scotland and Lions scrum-half Dougie Morgan, has signed a two-year contract with the club which will commence this summer.
In many ways, he is a like for like replacement for Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, who has not been able to agree terms on a new contract required to keep him on after the end of the current season. Both attended the city’s Royal High School [although Hidalgo-Clyne latterly attended Merchiston Castle School on a scholarship], progressing through the SRU academy and Under-20 set-up, before putting pen to paper on professional contracts with the hometown club.
The duo have an adventurous approach to the game in common, built around their pace off the mark and instinctive desire to punish the tightest of gaps; and both can kick goals when required as well.
The big difference at the moment is in experience, with Hidalgo-Clyne having played over 100 games for the club since 2014, and been capped nine times by Scotland; while Shiel has been 24th man for the capital outfit on several occasions this season but has yet to take to the pitch at that level. So, confirmation of the youngster being added to the full-time roster for next season does not necessarily close the door on another number nine with a more substantial track record being brought in.
New Zealander Augustine Pulu [currently Blues captain] and South African Nic Groom [Northampton Saints] are understood to have received overtures from the Scottish capital, but don’t seem to have been tempted.
Cockerill has stated that he expects to bring three new players from outside Scotland into his squad before the start of next season, but it may be that with Sean Kennedy and Nathan Fowles under contract until the summer of 2019 he feels he has enough coverage in this key position.
Shiel has certainly already shown his big match temperament, most notably when he scooted from the base of a scrum to score a breath-taking individual try for Scotland Under-20 against Australia at last summer’s Junior World Championships in Georgia, which secured the win and a highest ever fifth place finish in the tournament for his side. Shiel also represented the Scotland Club XV in Ireland last week.
“I’ve been involved with Edinburgh from pretty much the beginning of the season, and I managed to speak to Cockers [Cockerill], Hodgey [attack coach Duncan Hodge] and guys like that to see how I was doing, but it [this deal] only come about the past few weeks,” said Shiel, when asked about signing his first professional contract.
“As a young player coming in to specialist position, it has been really good, especially having boys like Sammy, Nathan and Sean all involved with the Scotland set-up,” he added. “Plus, Hodgey as a coach has a lot of experience with Scotland so I’ve learned a lot off him as well.”
“Those guys have made it easy, and I’ve just kept practising, and tried to copy what they do and ask a lot of questions about how you go about things. Improving my game management has been a big factor this season.”
Heritage and expectation
Shiel is, of course, fortunate to have had some heavyweight expertise to draw in at home as well, with dad still actively involved with the SRU as Sevens skills coach, and grandad retired but still a font of knowledge on the game having played, coached and managed at the highest level up to 2003.
“My dad was pretty pleased for me just to get a pro contract, to be honest; and it’s at Edinburgh so it’s even better. He comes to watch the Currie games and he was my coach for the while at school. He’s had a lot to do with me throughout my whole career,” said the youngest of the clan.
“He’s still doing the academy stuff so he’s still learning as much as I am at the same time. We watch a lot of rugby together on Saturday mornings and Friday nights. It’s good to just chat with him and get his thoughts. After games, most likely he’ll be the first person I will speak to for feedback.”
“I speak to [my grandad] quite a bit and he comes and watches games quite often, but obviously the game has changed a bit since his day. I still manage to chat about how I’m getting on. He enjoys it. He’ll give me his tips and some little tricks from up his sleeve – I still need to try a few out, but he’s good.”
“I managed to see a wee bit of my dad [in his playing days], not too much of my grandad. It’s always funny watching videos of them, it’s quite cool to see what they did in their time. Obviously, there is a bit more coverage with the social media side of things and stuff being broadcast now, but watching their stuff back is pretty good and special to me … even if it is all in black in white!”
Following in Luke Crosbie’s footsteps
Shiel is the second Chieftains prospect to have earned an Edinburgh contract this season, after back-row Luke Crosbie agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal in December. The Malleny Park outfit boasts one of the most exciting young squads in the BT Premiership under the tutelage of former Scotland and Edinburgh centre Ben Cairns.
The Chieftains are currently second in the BT Premiership table and can secure that spot – which gives them home advantage in the end of season play-offs – if they pick up a win against Heriot’s on Saturday. The match has been moved to the Oriam (Scotland’s Sports High Performance Centre) in response to the hostile weather conditions, meaning it is the one rugby match in the country certain to go ahead this weekend. Shiel has been named at scrum-half for that clash.
“Ben is making real changes to the set up at Currie. It’s good having young boys that you were involved with at the academy and now are coming through to Edinburgh together. It’s good to progress with them and everyone just wants to play rugby, pretty much. There is a serious side to it but boys are having fun … having fun with their mates,” said Shiel.
“Luke has gone really well,” Shiel added. “He’s managed to rack up quite a few appearances now. It just shows that there is a lot of young talent coming through and just getting that opportunity to show what you can do – then having a bit of confidence when the coach gives you the nod – is massive to a young boy.”