THERE has been a lot of talk recently about the pros and cons of Edinburgh’s overseas recruitment policy, but less focus on the slow but steady flow of homegrown talent ito the matchday squad.  

There is maybe not as many academy prospects as we would like coming through the ranks – especially when compared with the conveyer belts we see across the Irish Sea – but the likes of Jack Blain, Dan Gamble, Connor Boyle and Rory Darge have all had opportunities during the last few months to demonstrate their potential. 

Meanwhile, not quite in the same age-bracket, but cut from similar cloth, 22-year-old Jamie Hodgson has stepped up when a glut of injuries left head coach Richard Cockerill short of second-row options – and he has made a pretty compelling case for his current partnership contract with Super6 side Watsonians to be upgraded to a full-time deal with Edinburgh in the summer. 

“He came through the academy, a bit under the radar, and has worked really hard at his game,” was Cockerill’s take earlier this week. “He’s one of the unsung heroes really.  

“He’s worked hard at his conditioning, worked hard at his training and he’s a good young player. He probably wasn’t regarded as one of the rock star players but he has quietly gone about his business, improving with every opportunity he gets. He’s a very popular member of the squad and he’s turning into a good PRO14 professional.” 

When everyone is fit and healthy, second-row is perhaps the most highly competitive position in Scottish rugby, and Cockerill gives a cautious response when asked if the 6ft 4ins Hodgson could ever be an international prospect. But player development shouldn’t be about unearthing future superstars. For the pro teams to thrive, they need to have a bedrock of dedicated club men as the glue which holds the squad together. 

“He’s got to work on his athleticism and his engine,” said the coach. “He’s a bit of a later developer which isn’t a slight on him, it’s just that some guys develop later than others. He’s got some work to do to start competing with the Gilchrists and Toolis and Cummings and Grays of this world.” 

If that final observation is slightly dispiriting for an ambitious young player, Hodgson has he maturity to recognise the wisdom of his coach’s words. 

“What Cockers said was on the money, really,” he says. “I’m a late developer who has worked hard and I’ve still got lots of ways to improve. What I’m focused and trying to concentrate on is getting that jersey at Edinburgh, and to keep chipping away to get wins like last week’s at Sale.” 

Hodgson first came to prominence playing for Scotland Under-20s during the 2017-18 season, then impressed Cockerill when invited to a pre-season training camp at St Andrews ahead of the start of the 2018-19 season.  

“I trained my socks off for a few weeks and then Cockers said you can stay,” he recalls. “The year after that I was offered the partnership contract, which was a great stepping-stone for me as a late developer.” 

Hodgson managed four appearance for Edinburgh during both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, and he was one of the outstanding performers during the inaugural Super6 campaign before it was cut short by Covid. He has now played five matches for Edinburgh so far this season and feels that he is truly finding his feet. 

“When I first got a crack due to injuries, I was probably the last one standing and was about 100 kilos dripping wet, so I was just trying to fill a jersey and do a job,” he reflects. “With the run of games that I’ve now had, there’s a lot more confidence.  

“I want to make my mark on the pitch now rather than just fill a position on the team sheet. The Sale game was a big step up and a big challenge to play one of the top teams in the Premiership with a lot of physical guys, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.” 

Selection for this Saturday’s 1872 Cup clash against Glasgow Warriors would be another demonstration that Hodgson is well along the road of transitioning from fringe prospect to a member of the squad who can be relied upon in the biggest matches.