Guinness PRO12: Stuart McInally hooks new Edinburgh deal
Former Scotland U20 captain has sights set on more time in the Gunners front row despite his try-scoring form as a flanker
Stuart McInally is targeting more time in Edinburgh’s front row after signing a new one-year deal with the Guinness PRO12 club.
Injuries to the club’s loose forwards has meant the 24-year-old converted hooker has been redeployed in his former position at blindside flanker, from where he has scored crucial tries in their last two games to help the Gunners reach the European Challenge Cup final and chase sixth place in the PRO12.
I want to be playing as much at hooker as possible and that’s my goal going into next year, that’s why I’ve stayed here, and Edinburgh’s the place for me to do that.
While the former Scotland U20 captain, who has played 70 times for the club since joining them in 2010, is happy to help out in the back row, he still sees his future at the club as a hooker.
And with team-mate and mentor Ross Ford expected to be unavailable for the first two months of the 2015/16 season due to the Rugby World Cup, McInally expects to see plenty of action.
“Obviously everyone’s thinking about the final on Friday and, for me, it’s nice to know I’m secure here at Edinburgh for another season so I’m looking forward to that,” McInally told the club’s website.
“It’s been good to get some game time at hooker – obviously the injuries we’ve had in the back row have seen me playing a bit back there, which has been nice.
“I want to be getting as much game time at hooker as possible, but club comes first and I’ve got to do everything I can to move the club forward, and if that’s playing six that’s the way it is.
“Going forward, I want to be playing as much at hooker as possible and that’s my goal going into next year, that’s why I’ve stayed here and Edinburgh’s the place for me to do that.”
McInally made the decision to move from the back row in the summer of 2013, his aim to challenge Ford, and become one of the better hookers in the game, but it hasn’t been all plain sailing for the Scotland 7s international.
Now I’ve worked out little ways here and there to promote myself and make sure I get involved in the game, and I’m not just there to throw lineouts and scrum.
With experienced campaigner Ford still very much Edinburgh’s first-choice hooker when not away with the national team, affectionately-named Rambo has had to bide his time, which also saw him move on loan to Greene King IPA Championship side Bristol in 2014 to get game time as he developed his ability to throw lineouts and scrummage from a new position.
He played five games for the Championship runners-up, but struggled to make much of an impact despite his obvious talent.
Now back at Edinburgh with another year of experience, he made his first appearance at hooker against the Ospreys in February 2015, with his first start coming in the away win over Benetton Treviso in March, and he admitted before last week’s PRO12 game against Zebre that he has found ways to get more involved when playing hooker.
“When I played down at Bristol I didn’t actually feel that I played that well,” he added.
“It wasn’t that I played badly, but I didn’t assert myself on the game.
“A lot of people say the hardest thing is the throwing, but the hardest thing for me was trying to get involved in the game – I’m still trying to play like a back-rower.
“In the back row, you’re used to carrying off lineout first phase or coming round the corner off the scrum second phase, but at hooker you’re relying on the game to go through three or four phases before you can actually get hands on ball.
“That was the hardest thing for me starting off, because I was struggling to get into the game, whereas now I’ve worked out little ways here and there to promote myself and make sure I get involved in the game, and I’m not just there to throw lineouts and scrum.”
For now, McInally is happy to play wherever he is needed with the Challenge Cup final against Gloucester next up for Alan Solomon’s men on Friday at The Stoop.
And he admitted there is an excitement among the players to be the first Scottish club in a European final.
“The cup run has certainly given us a focus towards the end of the season, which we’ve not had in a few years and the top six is still achievable as well,” he said.
“The boys are in a good place, really excited, we’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves and we’re just going out to enjoy it.”