Marshall matters: Sykes keen to make his mark
After making the switch from rivals Glasgow Warriors this summer, up and coming back-five forward Marshall Sykes has shown both the enthusiasm to learn from his more experienced counterparts, and the drive to make his mark on the squad.
Mixing a flurry of youth and experience seems to be the capital side's plan ahead of next season, with Richard Cockerill recruiting a handful of promising youngsters who look set to slot right in with the already solid, experienced side that has gone unbeaten at home so far this season.
One of those names is 20-year-old Marshall Sykes, who signed his first professional contract with the club in June after previously plying his trade for Super6 side Ayrshire Bulls, as a product of the FOSROC Scottish Rugby Academy.
Speaking on his move to the capital, Sykes believes Edinburgh was the obvious choice to help him progress as a player.
“I think [Edinburgh] is a lot more suited to me than anywhere else – the play style, the vision the club has, and what they expect from their forwards especially. It gives me the opportunity to play with more clarity I guess, and just to do my job – and do it well.”
“Edinburgh as a city is quite different to what I’m used to. I’m living quite near Murrayfield and so within a 10 or 15 minute walk, you’re in the city centre – so it feels like quite a small city in that sense. But, it’s really good so far, and there’s always places to go, stuff to see and things to do – so I’m really enjoying that side of it.”
On the international stage, the back-five 'hybrid' has represented Scotland at both U18s and U20s levels – playing at the U20 World Cup and Six Nations – before a nasty knee injury put him out of action for most of the 2018-19 campaign.
“My first tournament was kind of a surprise to be honest. I was in my last year at school and I remember seeing the team sheet one day and thinking that I knew some of the names on there – but then within two weeks I found myself in one of the squads!
"My first game back from my knee injury though was actually in the World Cup against South Africa – it was some experience and it was tough, but I definitely learnt a lot from it – like adapting to different positions. I played number six that whole tournament, which was a bit of a change considering I was primarily playing lock the entire year before that.”
Joining Edinburgh as a lock or back-row could be daunting for a lot of younger players, considering the years of experience across the pack – with names like Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie regulars in the club's starting XV. That doesn’t faze Sykes though, who says the more experienced players have been nothing but helpful so far.
“They’re really nice guys, and they’re always trying to help the younger players. There’s no sense of ‘I’m not helping the newbies.' Everyone wants to pass on what they know to the younger ones who just want to learn – which is what I want to do. I’m just going to keep my head down, ask questions, and be a sponge for information really.”
Looking ahead to Edinburgh’s first game back against Glasgow Warriors next weekend, Sykes is hoping for a chance to prove himself, and make his first senior appearance.
“It’d be massive for me. It would top the move off – being able to pull on the jersey and run out against them. I want to get playing, and more importantly, I want to help us win – that’s the main goal for me – so to start that off against Glasgow would be special.”