ACADEMY FOCUS | Charlie Shiel ready to make the next step

With the talented trio of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Nathan Fowles and Sean Kennedy all vying for Edinburgh’s number nine jersey, you’ll struggle to find a position more hotly contested within the club than that of scrum-half. Yet, adding fuel to the flames of competition is academy prospect Charlie Shiel, who’s determined to seize his opportunity in the coming weeks.

A product of Edinburgh’s Royal High, Shiel very quickly made a name for himself as a gifted scrum-half with terrific service and a wicked change of pace. However, it was after making the move to BT Premiership side Currie at the beginning of the 2015\16 season where the 19-year-old truly prospered. Under the tutelage of former-Edinburgh centre, Ben Cairns, the scrum-half swiftly garnered the reputation as being one of the league’s most dangerous attacking prospects – an opinion shared by Edinburgh, with whom he is aligned to as a stage three academy player.

“Compared to your usual club routine, where your training is limited to a couple of hours on a Tuesday or Thursday night, sessions with Edinburgh are a lot more intense,” explains the scrum-half. “We have a lot more time to work on our own skills. That is probably the biggest difference. When you’re with your club, you don’t get a huge amount of time to work on your own individual skills which are relevant to your position.

It helps that you’ve got guys like Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Nathan Fowles working alongside you. They will give you little tips on how improve parts of your game. There are small technical details in your kicking or passing that they will pick upon - whereas that wouldn’t necessarily happen playing club rugby.”

Despite the fierce competition to secure the club’s number nine jersey, the long-standing adage that ‘iron sharpens iron’ certainly applies within Edinburgh’s scrum-half class.

“You’ve got to stay patient and keep grinding through.” Insists Shiel. “Obviously, Nathan is involved with Scotland at the moment, and Sean Kennedy is still a few weeks away, so you hope your chance will come eventually. As a young player, I’ve got to push the guys ahead of me. if I keep working hard, I’ll hopefully get an opportunity to stake a claim.

Sam and Nathan are both great blokes, and between them and Sean Kennedy, there is a ton of experience at the scrum-half position. They have all been in and around the Scotland set-up, so they are obviously quality at what they do. There are simple things that I might not pick up, which they will point out. Like how to attack a specific type of defence, or when to kick. You can learn a lot by just watching them play.

The ability to decipher a drifting defence, or pick out an un-positioned winger are no doubt traits that the 19-year-old picked up from his dad, the former-Scotland centre and current Scotland Sevens skills coach, Graham Shiel. With 18 caps earned during a stellar career, the senior Shiel has provided the perfect blueprint for his son to follow as he climbs the ladder of professional rugby.

“My dad has coached me since school, so he’s had a massive impact on my development in the scrum-half position. He obviously played in the centre, or at stand-off, so his perspective on attack is perhaps a bit different from mine. But, he has a great eye for what a defence does, or doesn’t, do – so he’s always been able to help me from that point of view.”

Shiel certainly needed no assistance from his old man whilst turning out for Scotland u20’s during this summer’s World Rugby Championships in Georgia. The scrum-half was a revelation as the squad secured their highest-ever finish of 5th place. With a breath-taking victory of Australia, in which Shiel scored the winning try, history was made.

“It was a bit mad after scoring that try against Australia. All the stuff on social media, congratulating us on reaching our highest ever finish in the competition was brilliant. I just happened to be the right guy, in the right place.”

It was also in Georgia where Shiel linked up Luke Crosbie; another Edinburgh academy prospect who has only recently made his way into the club’s starting XV.

“Luke and I were both in the same position to start the season, as we we’re both in the academy during pre-season. He went to Edinburgh and I went to Glasgow, so we both got in amongst it pretty early. Obviously, Luke has gone on to make his debut and has done fantastically well.

We’re all pretty close in the academy, so it’s great to hear how he has got on after a game. He’ll talk about the physicality or speed of a game. It helps when you’ve got a guy whose similar ages with you going through the same experiences.

The number of guys who’ve come through the age grade squads are now involved with the pro teams is awesome to see. I’ve know the likes of Darcy Graham and Callum Hunter-Hill since playing u-18 rugby, so to now be training alongside them at the next level is a cool experience. They’re all your mates at the end of the day. I know how hard everyone has worked to get to this point – we all just want to play for Edinburgh.”