The Sam Hidalgo-Clyne renaissance is set to continue in Florence
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne spent lockdown in an Airbnb in Devon where he tried to keep fit by running up hills.
When rugby resumed he was able to join Exeter Chiefs earlier than expected and play a part in the delayed end to what would be the most successful season in the club’s history.
The former Edinburgh scrum-half got his hands on not one but two pieces of silverware as he helped his new club win the Heineken Champions Cup and Gallagher Premiership finals on successive weekends.
The Hidalgo-Clyne revival continued this week when he was named on the bench for Scotland’s Autumn Nations Cup match against Italy on Saturday and the No 9 is now in line to win his first cap in over two years.
It’s a remarkable upturn in fortunes for the player whose career seemed to be drifting after he left Scotland to join Scarlets in 2018.
If the move to Wales didn’t work out, stints in France with first Racing and then Lyon proved more profitable, paving the way for his switch to Exeter where his effectiveness as an impact sub was vividly demonstrated by the dramatic turnover he won against Racing in the dying seconds of the European Cup final in Bristol.
Gregor Townsend left him out of his initial autumn squad and Hidalgo-Clybe said that was “a hard pill to swallow” because he felt his form had merited a call-up. But he has been brought in for the Nations Cup and will likely see action in Florence.
“It’s a chance that has come around through his own performances,” said the Scotland coach.
“He’s got a lot of his strengths to his game. He’s a very good kicker, he’s competitive like all good 9s, he has an eye for a gap, and has an all-round skilful game.
“He played 10 and 15 when he grew up, so he’s a heads-up 9, and we’ve seen those elements come out with Exeter, whether it’s starting a few games - he played very well against Northampton and Bristol - or coming off the bench, which he did in their semi-finals and finals.
“So we wanted to involve him in this period now, and he’s got an opportunity quite quickly after joining us to be in our matchday squad this weekend.”
The 12-times capped Hidalgo-Clyne last pulled on a Scotland jersey during the 2018 summer tour when he started in the win over Canada and appeared as a substitute in the defeat by the United States and the victory over Argentina.
Ten of his dozen caps have been won from the bench and he has experienced good and bad against Italy. He was on the pitch when Scotland lost at home to the Italians for the first and only time in the 2015 Six Nations after conceding a last-gasp penalty try. But he also started in the 16-12 win in a World Cup warm-up game in Turin later that year.
He will be understudy to Ali Price in Florence this weekend, getting the nod ahead of Scott Steele. George Horne, the fourth scrum-half in the Scotland squad, is out after suffering a toe injury in training this week.
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