Hoyland ready to hit the ground running
A huge part of being a professional rugby player is being ready for action at the drop of a hat. ‘Next man up’ is the mantra and winger Damien Hoyland so often delivers when called upon
He was handed his first start since rugby returned in Saturday’s Challenge Cup Quarter-Final – taking the place of the injured Duhan van der Merwe – and quickly repaid the coaches’ faith with a stellar performance, capped off with a well-taken second-half score.
Hoyland’s quality is always on display, while his Swiss Army Knife-like ability to transition from wing to fullback gives him an edge few back-three players possess.
For Hoyland, playing time is the name of the game, and the playmaker was delighted to be named back in the starting XV for Saturday’s knockout encounter.
“I’m pretty happy with how I played,” said Hoyland. “I have been training really hard and waiting for this opportunity, and I’m really glad I got it in such a big game.
“It is now about continuing to push the other guys – Duhan, Darcy and Blair – who are bloody good players, but Cockers has made it clear that if someone takes their opportunity then they will keep their place.
“It is all about the competition because that is what keeps pushing all of our standards up.”
Regarded as one of the club’s hardest trainers – both in the gym and on the training paddock – Hoyland has worked tirelessly to return from a string of unlucky injuries that kept him on the physio bed for much of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 season.
Now back fully fit and in great match shape, the Scotland international has enjoyed a resurgence in 2019-20 – something he’s keen to build upon as the new league season fast approaches.
“Cockers makes it very well known that the door is never closed for a player to break into the side if they are training well, or for a player to drop out if they are not performing well.
“It is not just those three. You have Eroni Sau, Jamie Farndale and Jack Blain, who are all excellent players, and we all know that the door is always open if you train well and take you chance when you get to play. That’s how professional sport works.”
“I definitely feel you get better with regular game-time, but this competition has given me a lot of things to work on.
“For example, I can cover fullback fairly competently now which maybe wasn’t something I could have done a couple of years ago.
“Now it is about getting as much game time as I can to start putting the things I’ve worked on in training out on the field.”
Although Hoyland and Edinburgh’s season came to an end on Saturday – with a late fightback against Bordeaux-Bègles falling short – the winger felt the performance on display showcased the capital side’s never-say-die character.
“The game was bitterly disappointing in many respects because we were in with a chance, we had done the right thigs and we had the right game-strategy, and we were so close.
“But the thing we can take from this, and we took it from the last two weeks is that we are on the up.
“We work bloody hard and that’s one of the best things about this team. Mistakes happen – people drop the ball – the best player in the world will drop the ball – there is no point looking into that too deeply because mistakes will happen.
“I would never say we are working too hard, because you can never work hard enough. From these two games, there are a lot of things we are going to be better at.
“And going into next season we will be gunning for it, and we know what works.”
For Hoyland, there is no time like the present and perhaps he’s lucky in the fact that the 2020-21 season is just around the corner.
There will be no four month pre-season and hit outs to prepare, it’s a case of resuming rugby and hitting the ground running when the time comes.
“We’re definitely ready. The boys are fit. We’ve trained really hard and there’s not been that much rugby played, so we’ll take a few days off, and given the last couple of results we are desperate to get back to winning ways. We just want to right some wrongs and show everybody how good a team we can be.”
“My focus is to try and recover and be in the best condition I can be going into our first game of 2020-21. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t desperate to play our next game. But I just have to be the best I can be and take it from there.
“But my body is feeling good now and I’m ready to go whenever the next opportunity is. I wasn’t in my best form and then I had those injuries, but because of that I definitely feel I learnt a lot and think I am a better player now.”