Kinghorn Aims for University Degree and Continued Good Form
Edinburgh Rugby’s fan-favourite fullback Blair Kinghorn had a barnstorming season last year. Last week, he discussed the impressive standards held by Pro14 teams, his mind-set going into this season and playing for both Edinburgh and Scotland.
Kinghorn in action for Edinburgh against Connacht (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
Blair Kinghorn is just 21 years old, yet he has already amassed 67 Edinburgh caps and has scored 130 points for the capital outfit through 15 tries, 17 conversions and 7 penalties. This year, he also made his first mark on the Scotland international side – in just five appearances he has already scored three tries and successfully kicked five conversions and one penalty. Not bad at all.
Speaking about his most recent experience with the Scottish team – on the Summer Tour to the US and Canada – Kinghorn said: “Loved it [the Scotland tour]. There’s a lot of things you learn on tour. You get really close to everyone that you’re away with, as obviously, you’re away with people for a month. But it was brilliant.
“Learning how to be a real professional the whole time was really good. I just loved being in the environment with all the boys. And we played some good rugby out there, especially finishing on a high against Argentina.”
For Scotland, Kinghorn has often appeared on the wing rather than his natural Edinburgh position of fullback. When asked where his preferred position for Scotland was, Kinghorn joked: “Anywhere. Wherever the coach needs me, I’ll play there. Wherever he sees fit – I trust coaches, so I’ll play wherever.”
Some would presume that after such a successful season for his club, and a positive start to his international career under head coach Gregor Townsend, Kinghorn’s mind-set may have changed. The fullback addressed this, saying: “Yes and no.
“I think, obviously I would love to be selected for the autumn internationals coming up, but that doesn’t come if you don’t play well, or you don’t get picked for your club.
“So just looking to put my best foot forward for Edinburgh and then if I put a run of performances in, then hopefully I’ll be selected for that [Scotland’s autumn series].”
But, with Scotland selection placed to the side for the time being, Kinghorn’s focus remains on doing his part for his club: “I think my approach is the same as it has always been. Just kind of work week to week, and try and put in as much effort as I can throughout the training week.
“If I’m selected, then I’m putting my best foot forward on the pitch and doing what’s best for the team. And if that’s kicking the ball or carrying the ball, then I’ll do that. I’m just really looking forward to getting stuck in to the season.”
Ensuring his main focus is on Edinburgh will be pivotal for the club as even Kinghorn himself recognises that within the past couple of seasons, all teams in the Pro14 league have worked to better themselves in terms of performance and attitude towards the game.
On this, Kinghorn said: “I think most of the teams have got significantly better. There’s no easy fixtures in the Pro14, I don’t think. I think anyone can beat anyone, which is a really good thing. It means you have to be on your game the whole time.”
One aspect which has proved to work in the Scottish side’s favour many a time, is the fact that a number of their young stars – including Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Murray McCallum, Lewis Carmichael and Kinghorn – have been playing together since Academy days.
Kinghorn spoke about the impact of this: “You get a close bond with people when you play age grade rugby with them. When you go away to the junior world cup, you’re away for a month with people, so you get a nice close bond with everyone and you just kind of know the way that they think and the way that they’re going to act on the pitch. So yeah, it does really help.”
He added: “I remember coming in here [to the Edinburgh squad] for my first year and quite a lot of the boys I’d played under 20s with were here. And that just made it a really easy transition.”
Kinghorn on Scotland duty with fellow Edinburgh players and academy graduates (from left to right) Carmichael, Bradbury and McCallum (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
However, Kinghorn also acknowledges that not all of his time needs to be consumed by professional rugby, and that relaxing away from the game can often help a player remain focused.
Asked what he prefers to do off the field, he said: “It [rugby] does take quite a lot of your focus, but in my downtime, the NFL season has just started so quite a few boys, we’re in a fantasy league. So just watching that every Sunday. I don’t really support a team, just kind of interested in all of it.”
He also added: “I like watching golf as well. I’m not very good at it, but I’ll whack a ball if I can.”
Along with these fun and relaxing activities, Kinghorn has also decided to return to his studying: “I’ve just started uni. I’m doing business management at Edinburgh Napier.”
He explained his decision to go back to education, saying: “I’d been kind of putting it off since I left school. Obviously, it’s been four years I think now since I left school, and I haven’t done anything in terms of studying, so I just thought it was the right time to start studying.
“Magnus Bradbury has also started with me, so we’re looking forward to doing that together.”
When asked who would be copying notes from who, the back light-heartedly replied: “We’ve not started just yet, but we’ll find out.”
It will be interesting to see how his decision to simultaneously study at university whilst still playing rugby professionally will encourage others to follow that path and further their education whilst still in their playing days.
In the short-term though, many will be looking forward to seeing how Kinghorn’s performances impact Edinburgh – and hopefully Scotland – for another season.