Recently, there has been a great deal of debate about the pros and cons of the overseas recruitment strategy of Edinburgh, but less about the slow but steady influx of domestic talent into the matchday squad.
In contrast with the conveyor belts we see around the Irish Sea, there may not be as many young players coming out of the academy as we would like, but players like Jack Blain, Dan Gamble, Connor Boyle and Rory Darge have all had the opportunity in recent months to display their potential.
Though not quite in the same age group, the 22-year-old Jamie Hodgson is cut from similar cloth. He stepped in when, due to a spate of injuries, head coach Richard Cockerill ran out of second-row options – and he made a convincing case for his new partnership arrangement with Super6 Watsonians to be transferred in the summer to a full-time deal with Edinburgh.
Cockerill said earlier this week, “He came through the academy, a bit under the radar, and has worked really hard on his game,” “He’s one of the unsung heroes, really.
He’s been working on his conditioning hard, he’s been practicing hard, and he’s a strong young player. He certainly wasn’t known to be one of the rock star players, but he went about his job quietly and changed with every chance he got. He’s a really famous team member and he’s turning into a successful professional for PRO14.
The second row is probably the most fiercely contested place in Scottish rugby when everybody is fit and safe, and Cockerill gives a cautious response when asked if the 6-foot-9 Hodgson will ever be an international candidate. But the production of players should not be about uncovering potential superstars. For professional teams to succeed, they need a committed club player base to keep the squad toget
The coach said, “He needs to work on his athleticism and his engine.” He’s a bit of a late developer, which is not an insult to him, it’s just that some guys develop later than others. He has some work to do to keep up with this world’s Gilchrists and Toolis and Cummings and Grays.
While for an ambitious young player, that last statement is a little disheartening, Hodgson has the experience to see the wisdom in the words of his coach.
It was very accurate what Cockers said,” he says. “I am a late developer who worked hard, and I still have a lot of chances to change. What I’m concentrating on is getting the jersey in Edinburgh and continuing to progress to get wins like last week in Sale.”
In the 2017-18 season, when he played for the Scotland U20 national team, Hodgson first came to attention and impressed Cockerill when he was invited to a training camp at St. Andrews prior to the start of the 2018-19 season.
“I trained like crazy for a couple of weeks and then Cockerill said you can stay,” he remembers. “The next year I was offered the partnership contract, which was a great stepping stone for me as a late developer.”
In both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, Hodgson made four appearances for Edinburgh and was one of the standout players in the inaugural Super6 campaign until Covid cut it short. So far this season, he has played five games for Edinburgh and thinks he is beginning to find his feet.
I was probably the last one standing and weighed about 100 kilos, soaking wet when I first came on due to injury, so I was only trying to fill a jersey and do a job,” he says. “I have a lot of confidence with the string of games I’ve had now.
“I want to prove myself on the pitch now and not just fill a position on the team sheet. The game against Sale was a big step up and a great challenge to play against one of the top teams in the Premier League with a lot of physical players, and I enjoyed it a lot.”
Selection for the 1872 Cup match against Glasgow Warriors next Saturday will be more evidence that Hodgson is well on his way to evolving from an outsider into a squad member that can be counted on in the most important games.