Sam Hidalgo-Clyne ready for head-to-head with fellow Scotland scrum half Greig Laidlaw at the Stoop on Friday 

  • Edinburgh face Gloucester in the Challenge Cup final on Friday night 
  • Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is hoping to impress Scotland coach Vern Cotter 
  • Hidalgo-Clyne has starred for Alan Solomons' side this season 

He's not daft, nor is he blinkered. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne knows that, even amid the historic hoopla surrounding a major European final, one particular sub-plot is just too delicious to be ignored.

Yet, as he prepares to go head-to-head with his international captain, mentor, friend and rival for the Scotland No 9 jersey, the Edinburgh scrum-half is clear about one thing.

Come kick-off at the Stoop on Friday night, any desire to prove an individual point, all thoughts of getting one over on Greig Laidlaw for the benefit of a watching Vern Cotter, of showing the world that he’s ready to start every single one of Scotland’s World Cup matches … anything of that ilk must be supressed.

Edinburgh scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is relishing his battle with fellow Scot Greig Laidlaw on Friday 

Edinburgh scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is relishing his battle with fellow Scot Greig Laidlaw on Friday 

Not because he actively wants to avoid putting pressure on the player who has taught him so much. But because, at the age of 21, Hidalgo-Clyne has already learned a valuable lesson about putting team needs before individual ambitions.

The gifted sporting offspring of a Spanish dad and Scottish mum, good enough to make this year’s Six Nations squad after only 15 professional starts for Edinburgh, came up against former school half-back partner Scott Steele in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final against London Irish earlier this month.

Although the capital club won on the day - setting them on their way to a semi-final win over Newport-Gwent Dragons - Hidalgo-Clyne admits that all of the chatter about two old pals on opposite sides was a distraction.

‘I actually learned from that,’ he admitted. ‘This game won’t be so much like that, trying to get at each other.

‘I probably didn’t play as well as I could have in that game against Irish because we were both trying to find each other; there was so much hype surrounding us.

‘That was probably my first outing against someone I know really well. I’m glad I got it out of my system, it’s been and gone. I’ll take that into this week.

‘Everyone says I’m going to go out for Greig but it’s not like that at all. I’m not there to play for me, I’m there to play for the club.

Gloucester scrum half Laidlaw fires out a pass during his side's training session at Hartpury College

Gloucester scrum half Laidlaw fires out a pass during his side's training session at Hartpury College

‘Ultimately, we need to win this game. I need to do whatever I can. If that means not chasing somebody, that’s what I’ll do.

‘It’s not about me playing Greig, it’s about Edinburgh playing Gloucester. I play better when I focus on the team.

‘Knowing each other does come into it. But, once you get into the game, you forget about it.

‘If you are worrying about one of the opposition, if you’re trying to get at him a bit more, it takes something away from your game.’

A keen watcher of the game who has clearly studied Gloucester in depth, Hidalgo-Clyne can talk at length about the dangers of their powerful pack and electric back three, although he smiled as he added: ‘Yeah, they’ve got an alright 9, too …’

His respect for Laidlaw is obvious, his desire to import aspects of the older man’s game – Laidlaw is a positively decrepit 29 – the most sincere form of flattery.

‘Learning from Greig, especially in the Six Nations, has helped me hugely,’ said the quicksilver heir to the Scotland slot, who got game time as a replacement for the skipper in an otherwise disappointing championships.

‘I’m taking that into my game now. The knowledge of his game is huge. For example, he knows exactly when a winger is in and he can put it over the corner. His game management is brilliant. I want to adapt that into my game, with the speed of my game, learning how to control it like he can.

Hidalgo-Clyne will be hoping to impress Scotland head coach Vern Cotter (above) at the Stoop 

Hidalgo-Clyne will be hoping to impress Scotland head coach Vern Cotter (above) at the Stoop 

‘At the start of the season, I was a bit erratic – a lot of pace - but there was no control of the game. Now I want to bring in his side to it, where I can slow things down, control things, manage people and make my forwards feel relaxed around me.

‘Play like an old man? An old man who can go out of the blocks now and then!

‘The Scotland thing is not in my control, it’s up to the coach. Greig is the captain. I have to just keep pushing and get on his heels. This is a good opportunity for me to ask questions – but that’s all.’

By the time kick-off comes, just about every Edinburgh player on the books will have been quoted about the need to play a hard-nosed and occasionally brutal brand of forward-focused rugby, with the emphasis on winning set pieces, keeping the ball away from Gloucester’s flying machines, slowing proceedings down and beating the daylights out of their opposing pack with driving mauls.

Hidalgo-Clyne does little to deviate from the script, apart from acknowledging a recent improvement in the attacking play of the backs, saying: ‘As much as we talk about keeping it tight, when it’s on, it’s on.

‘We know exactly what we want to do. We want to keep it tight and structured, play off as much set piece as we can. For me, I have to make sure it doesn’t get loose, don’t make silly kicks.

‘Because, when we played them a couple of years ago, Jonny May really punished us – he scored a couple of tries just off us playing loose. It’s important for me and the 10 to keep structure. Then when it’s on and you see a gap, you go.’

It’s a formula that worked brilliantly in their semi-final demolition of the Dragons, the Murrayfield marauders guaranteeing themselves a special place in Scottish rugby folklore by becoming the first of our teams to reach a European final.

‘Of course we’re aware of the history,’ said the man responsible for making those split-second judgment calls between security and ambition.

‘That’s brilliant, being the first Scottish team to reach a European final. But we don’t want to be the ones who get there only to fall short. We want to go the whole way.’