Blair Kinghorn says Scottish rugby players need more psychological help

‘After a big loss there’s not really much in place in terms of help’ says Edinburgh full-back

Saturday, 12th September 2020, 10:37 pm
Blair Kinghorn says he was one of the players to receive criticism from Richard Cockerill following Edinburgh's defeat by Ulster. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn has admitted that Scottish teams may need some psychological help to overcome their knockout jinx and revealed he was one of the players to “get it tight” from coach Richard Cockerill after last weekend’s dismal collapse to a 22-19 home defeat by Ulster in the Guinness Pro14 
semi-final.

The late choke from a dominant position of a 12-point lead early in the second half was a bitter pill to swallow for the capital side who topped Conference B
and had reached unprecedented heights in the championship during a season hit by the coronavirus shutdown.

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It was a fifth defeat from five in knockout games after losses to Cardiff and La Rochelle in the European Challenge Cup and Munster in both a Pro14 quarter-final and the last eight of the Heineken Champions Cup.

Stuart Hogg has sustained an injury at Exeter Chiefs. Picture: Harry Trump/Getty Images

“With the mental side of the game, the in-depth way we look at teams is quite big but in terms of the psychological side of things, after a big loss there’s not really that much in place in terms of help around Scottish rugby in general,” said the 23-year old.

“A lot of teams have got psychologists but the way we deal with it is the player group is so tight-knit at Edinburgh that you can bounce off the players but it’s something that probably needs to be looked at a little bit more.”

Edinburgh are swiftly back in knockout business as they are due to travel to France and face Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday in the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals. While the positive talk out of Murrayfield may be that it is an ideal opportunity to get last weekend out of the system there must be a fear that playing the French cracks on home soil carries a real danger of Pro14 coach of the season Cockerill’s record in such games becoming zip from six.

Kinghorn said the reaction and review session with the boss had not been a pleasant experience.

“It does hurt. It’s not nice when you hear criticism but it’s especially not nice when you know the criticism’s true and in that situation against Ulster we did choke,” he conceded.

Kinghorn was caught flat-footed for Ulster’s first try, struggled to impose himself in attack and wasn’t as accurate with his kicking as usual.

“It’s not personal, he [Cockerill] wants us to improve and be the best we can be,” continued the former Edinburgh Accies and Scotland Under-20 player. “If you take it personally and you sulk, that’s when you’re not going to improve.

“Sometimes the way the point comes across is brutal and is very to the point but he is doing it to improve us.

“I got it quite tight because I’m a senior player now, I’ve got 90 games for Edinburgh, and in certain moments I need to be delivering certain things and he expects high quality from me all the time and if I don’t perform like that, he’s going to tell me.

“I’ve got to the stage where I realise I’ve got to be on my best the entire time. No-one ever is the entire time but you need to strive for that.”

It will be Edinburgh’s third meeting with Bordeaux-Begles, who were runaway French Top 14 leaders before the season there was scrapped, after a 16-16 home draw and 32-17 loss in France during the pool stage over the winter.

“Going away to France is always a tough challenge. French teams thrive at home,” said Kinghorn. “Bordeaux have the highest average attendance in the Top 14 so going there in the pool stages was tough.

“They’ve got some world-class players and they’re a world-class team. No crowd is probably an advantage for us. When we went over there in the pool stages, the fans were so loud you couldn’t hear anyone else [on the pitch].”

Kinghorn has 21 caps for Scotland now but only seven have been starts in his preferred position as Gregor Townsend has utilised his talents on the wing as Stuart Hogg dominates the No 15 jersey.

Hogg, inset, limped off with a leg injury during Exeter’s win over Gloucester last week but Kinghorn is wishing him well ahead of a busy Test schedule including the delayed culmination of the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup.

“I didn’t see Hoggy getting injured but hopefully it’s nothing too serious and he recovers fully,” he said.

As Bordeaux beckons Kinghorn will hope to put a less than vintage week behind him. One glimmer of light was a second appearance in an Edinburgh-dominated Pro14 Dream Team.

Kinghorn said: “It was good to see that there are six Edinburgh boys in it. It shows where this team is now and is going.

“My mum called me. I got out of the meeting, two-and-a-half hours of doom and gloom, but it had to be. Then my mum called and was like ‘You’re in the Dream Team, congratulations’, and I said ‘thanks’, but I was sulking a bit. But then she perked me back up. It was good.”

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