Blair Kinghorn: Business as usual
Go back to autumn of 2017, and Blair Kinghorn had yet to earn his first Scotland cap. Within 12 months he was starting to look a mainstay of the national side.
A former age-grade internationalist, Kinghorn signed with Edinburgh Rugby in May 2015 and joined the club on his return from taking part in the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy that summer. He made his professional debut, off the bench, in the 70th minute of Edinburgh’s round five Guinness PRO12 match against Zebre and scored his first try in the 45-10 defeat of Treviso in the 2016/17 season. His performances for Edinburgh didn’t go unnoticed by Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend, and Kinghorn joined the Scotland squad for the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations, making his debut off the bench in the Calcutta Cup match against England.
So how did it feel to enter the Test match arena on such a big stage?
“It was a bit of a whirlwind. The Six Nations is something you watch a lot on TV when you’re younger. Finding myself in the squad and luckily managing to get onto the pitch… I loved every moment of it. Getting my first cap for Scotland was the biggest day of my life so far.”
In the following round Kinghorn made his first start on the wing – an achievement marked with his first Test try – in defeat to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. This prolific start to his international career continued on the 2018 summer tour, where he scored tries against Canada and Argentina in the opening and closing wins of the three-Test tour. He says that he found the tour a great opportunity not just to play international rugby, but also to bond with his teammates.
“As a whole, it was brilliant to have the month away and spend time with people you’re friendly with and also people you don’t know as well. Getting to know everyone, the exiles and the Glasgow boys, in a really tight tour set-up was great. The last win against Argentina was brilliant. We finished the tour on a high.”
The 6’3” player typically plays fullback for Edinburgh, but four of his five appearances in the Scotland jersey have been on the wing. Kinghorn says that he doesn’t mind which number is on his jersey.
“I’m happy wherever. If it gets me onto the park I’ll play it. I’ve played more of my rugby at 15 on a club level but I’ve only played one game at fullback for Scotland against Canada. I feel comfortable on the wing or at fullback. I’ll play wherever the coach sees fit.”
Still aged just 21, Kinghorn has racked up plenty of experience in professional rugby. The 2017/18 season saw his reputation grow and he finished the Guinness PRO14 campaign with the most metres gained in the league. So what has it taken to get to this level?
“I think you have to put in a lot of hard work and it’s also the people around you. ’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of really good coaches whether that’s at school or Edinburgh, the coaches have been great with me.
“I think I’ve learned quite a lot from experience, having played for Edinburgh while I was quite young.” Kinghorn also cites his family as an influence, showing appreciation for their support and the sacrifices they have made during his school and club career, taking him to games on Saturdays and watching on from the sidelines, even when the standard of rugby on display might not have been great. In terms of future ambitions, Kinghorn says that he tends to work with short-term goals, looking one to two weeks ahead and breaking his targets down into small chunks.
“I don’t look too far into the future. I want to keep playing for Edinburgh and be first choice there and keep trying to get into Scotland squads. If I get picked then great and if not I’ll keep trying to support the team in the best way I can.”
While his rugby ambitions focus on the here and now, Kinghorn recently started studying Business Management at Napier University, alongside Edinburgh colleague Magnus Bradbury. He’s studying part-time and says that the college and lecturers have been helpful in terms of understanding his rugby commitments, providing flexible opportunities to study.
“I’ve been putting it off for a little while. I finished school four years ago, so I thought it would be a good time to start. Some of the other lads who were doing Business Management said how good the course was and pointed out how we can apply what we learn in business with the connections that we get through rugby. Business is a good degree to have. It’ll take a while but I’m enjoying it.”