We find out all about the man who would be ten for Edinburgh and Scotland
Inside Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn
ALL OVER Scotland, Blair Kinghorn’s shift to fly-half has been a topic of intense confabulation. Not since Gordon Brown has a Scot moving into No 10 generated so much chat. And yet, in Edinburgh, the change has not only made sense, it has helped define part of what the capital club’s identity is to be going forward.
“People don’t realise how big a transition it is moving from that 15 to ten role is, especially at that level,” explains former team-mate James Johnstone.
“Blair hasn’t played a lot of rugby in that area. But he’s obviously so naturally talented and I think he’s adapted so quickly to that position. It was a big reason why Edinburgh played such a good brand of rugby last season and scored some great tries.
“He sees and reads the game very well and his temperament is a relaxed one. I think that helps in a position where things can be very high stress with a lot of things going on. It’s certainly improved him as a player.”
Kinghorn is still just 25, but we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him play from the back for club and country.
He stood out in the then Pro14 back in 2018 as a full-back, while the next year he scored a Six Nations hat-trick off the wing. And he’s not hard to spot on the park either, being blessed with sky-tickling height and a spill of great pace.
And then last season coach Mike Blair (with Scotland boss Gregor Townsend nodding away too) had a lightbulb moment. So why shift him forward?
“You’ve just got to get him on the ball as much as you can and I think ten’s the perfect position for that,” says fellow Edinburgh back James Lang. “He can influence players and he brings a spotlight onto himself and brings the best out of the players. And that’s with his athletic ability too. I played with some world-class tens at my previous club (Harlequins) and he’s definitely up there, and he brings something different with his speed and height. It would make playing rugby a lot easier!
“But it’s the way he can control the ball. With his offloading game, we saw bits of it last season, but I think that’s going to grow even more. It’s quite scary how good he can be. He could be world class and he’s well on his way to that. It’s just the more times you can play ten. Every time he plays he learns something different. It’s all about learning.”
Related: Measuring pressure on playmakers
Reps, reps, reps. Errors have been clear so far, but both Johnstone and Lang believe time in the saddle is key. And as Paul Gustard pointed out to Rugby World last season, while he was Benetton defence coach, Edinburgh play a game where their half-backs get a lot of touches per game. It’s also an interesting challenge, effectively trying to Pokémon evolve him into a leader.
If that sounds unnecessarily colourful as a reference, bear in mind this is a young man who is described as regularly dressing as if it’s ‘S*** Shirt’ night – and he does not care. Dancing in the gym is mentioned. The added layer being that Kinghorn maintains intense-until-awkward eye contact.
As Lang says, he’d heard about Team Weird before signing for the club. Alas, “Blair is the only surviving member!” Believe us, in this case weird is ace.
Johnstone adds: “He’s such a popular guy in the changing room, right through from the youngest guys to the oldest, and he’s really great to have around the team. He cares about his team-mates a lot and that’s a really important trait. That’s the great thing about Blair.”
Tall. Rapid. Relaxed. Team man. Quirky. And hell-bent on making this work. It all spells Yeehah, whatever happens.
This feature first appeared in Rugby World’s Season Preview issue.
Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.