New academy will breed the Hidalgo-Clyne of to­mor­row

Ed­in­burgh scrum half be­lieves re­vamp will help new crop re­alise rich prom­ise

The Herald - Sport - - RUGBY - GARY HEATLY

AS A man who knows all about the trans­for­ma­tive pow­ers of pro­gres­sive coach­ing dur­ing the cru­cial years of a player’s de­vel­op­ment, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is well-placed to recog­nise the value of the new BT Sport Scot­tish Rugby Academy set-up.

The scrum half is still just 21, but is poised to se­cure a berth in Vern Cotter’s Scot­land squad for the World Cup, the cul­mi­na­tion of a re­mark­able rise dur­ing the last two years.

As an out­stand­ing school­boy tal­ent at Mer­chis­ton Castle, and a stand-out per­former on his jour­ney through Scot­land’s age-grade ranks, an out­sider could be for­given for think­ing that Hidalgo-Clyne’s pas­sage to the Pro12 league and the na­tional team’s se­nior set-up was a serene jour­ney.

Not so and, at one stage, the Ed­in­burgh Rugby back was sixth choice at scrum half with his ca­reer seem­ingly stuck in neu­tral.

How­ever, Hidalgo-Clyne, born in Spain, found that a lengthy trip to for­eign shores would trans­form his for­tunes.

In 2013, he was se­lected to travel to New Zealand on the Macphail Schol­ar­ship and, de­ter­mined to make the most of his time in Christchurch, Hidalgo-Clyne de­voted him­self to im­prov­ing ev­ery as­pect of his play and learn­ing from the best.

He re­called: “I al­ways worked hard, but when I went to New Zealand it re­ally started to pay off.

“I had great coaches around me at the time, but it was down to me and how much I wanted it if I was go­ing to be able to progress. When I was out in New Zealand I bor­rowed a cam­corder, made up spe­cific ses­sions and con­stantly watched my­self back on film so I could get bet­ter.

“Games were not the big­gest thing out there for me, the best thing for me was dur­ing the week when I could learn prop­erly about how to be­come a scrum half.

“I would go to the Cru­saders matches out there and take a pen and pa­per with me so I could take notes.”

That process en­gen­dered greater con­fi­dence in a player whose sense of self-belief had not al­ways matched his tal­ents dur­ing his jour­ney through the “old” academy set-up.

Hidalgo-Clyne ad­mit­ted: “When I was brought into the academy sys­tem at first I could not have even imag­ined I would go on and play for Ed­in­burgh, I was too ner­vous around the se­nior play­ers.

“I had just moved to scrum half and, at one point I was sixth choice for the po­si­tion, so I could not see light at the end of the tun­nel. I thought there was no chance I was ever go­ing to be play­ing for the pro team, but it just shows what hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion can do.”

That ap­pli­ca­tion and re­silience will reap its ul­ti­mate re­ward if, as ex­pected, the player sees off an ad­mit­tedly strong group of scrum half ri­vals for a place in Cotter’s fi­nal World Cup squad of 31 play­ers for the sport’s show­piece event in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber.

Greig Laid­law, Henry Pyr­gos and Chris Cusiter are also bid­ding to book their places in Eng­land and Hidalgo-Clyne knows he has to re­main fo­cused through­out the sum­mer in the lead-up to the World Cup warm-up matches to ce­ment his own po­si­tion.

He added: “We are just back from the camp in Font Romeu and I re­ally en­joyed that. It was good fun and we were work­ing hard, but it was also about team bond­ing.

“The next cou­ple of months will be hard work, but it is some­thing that I am look­ing for­ward to and, with Henry Pyr­gos hav­ing had a strong end to the sea­son and en­joy­ing a high pro­file with Glas­gow War­riors, it just adds to the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Com­pe­ti­tion is some­thing I thrive on though and it makes me play bet­ter and pushes me on, so these are ex­cit­ing times.”

If the present is ripe with pos­si­bil­i­ties, Hidalgo-Clyne is even more bullish about the fu­ture, a con­fi­dence strength­ened by the gov­ern­ing body of­fi­cially launch­ing their new de­vel­op­ment path­way, the BT Sport Scot­tish Rugby Academy.

Hidalgo-Clyne was at BT Mur­ray­field on Satur­day to lend a player’s per­spec­tive to the plan, which will see the cre­ation of four academy bases – Ed­in­burgh, Borders and East Loth­ian, Cale­do­nia and Glas­gow and the West.

He was also on hand as the 87 promis­ing male and fe­male play­ers, who will be part of the launch in 2015/16, were un­veiled.

Hidalgo-Clyne will be keep­ing one eye on how the latest academy in­ductees progress and of­fered some timely ad­vice based on his own ex­pe­ri­ence.

He said: “I think there is a lot of tal­ent com­ing through in Scot­land. It seems ev­ery year that the young play­ers are get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter and that comes from the set-up Scot­tish Rugby are putting in place, which is great.

“The big­gest piece of ad­vice I would give to these young play­ers is never to take any­thing for granted. The hard work starts now for them.

“I look for­ward to these academy play­ers com­ing through in the fu­ture and push­ing us hard for our places.”

STAR: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne was at BT Mur­ray­field to help launch the new academy set-up for de­vel­op­ing young tal­ent

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