New academy will breed the Hidalgo-Clyne of tomorrow
Edinburgh scrum half believes revamp will help new crop realise rich promise
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