Taylor targeting centre of attention
Edinburgh Rugby this weekend welcomed the return of 11 players from Scotland’s dramatic victory over France in Paris in the Guinness Six Nations - writes James Parsons.
Such is the club’s contribution to the national cause, the only positions not affected directly is centre and scrum-half, meaning a straight shootout has been taking place ahead of this Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup clash with Racing 92.
Throughout the international window Edinburgh have fielded a combination of Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, James Johnstone and George Taylor, with Academy prospect Matt Currie also contributing – all of whom have had the chance to influence the decision-making of Head Coach Richard Cockerill.
Simply put, four into two doesn’t go. All players want to play all games, but it would be foolhardy not to view knockout European games as target for any competitor.
“It’s been reiterated to us all season that every match is a chance to prove ourselves for selection,” explained Taylor.
"Everyone wants to play in the Racing match, so the last few weeks have been a huge opportunity for everyone.”
Taylor has looked impressive in back-to-back starts away to Connacht and Cardiff Blues – with the Melrosian grabbing a brace of tries in the match-up at the Arms Park.
“I don’t normally get over the white line, so it was nice to get two. It was a difficult game but our physicality was there.
“They got a couple of well-executed tries that sometimes you can’t do anything about like the little chip over for Jarrod Evans and then a counter-attack breakaway.
"If we had cancelled out those two tries, we were in the fight. But we couldn’t carry that on.”
The 2020-21 season has been stop-start for everyone – players and supporters – but perhaps none more so than for George Taylor.
The strong carrying centre was unfortunate to pick up a facial injury in November, with a mistimed high shot keeping him out of action for several months, before receiving a red card for the same offence on his return.
“It was obviously quite a bad one at the time. I had the option to stay in Wales and potentially find somewhere to stay or have a very uncomfortable flight home.
“I went for the flight and eventually made it back to the hospital in Livingston.
“The medical team were absolutely great. Especially our doctor, Mike Dunlop. He took me to Livingston hospital and waited until 4am until they told him I was staying overnight. George Taylor
"All of the staff have been great, they know what they’re doing when it comes to head injuries.”
Head injuries have been a huge talking point in rugby recently, with red cards being given more regularly for challenges that put players' health at risk.
Tackling lower has been a priority for teams around the sport, and Taylor’s injury shows further evidence of why high tackles can be so dangerous.
“The coaches are really aware of it,” said Taylor. "We work hard in training on changing your height when you’re the tackler.
"We try to rule out the high tackle penalties. We put a bit emphasis on it in training, even if it’s a touch drill.
“It’s an injury I’d never wish on anyone. I spoke to the player after the incident, and he was apologetic.”
Then came his return to play from the bench against Zebre back in January, where he too saw red for going high in the tackle.
It was a disappointing and frustrating way to make his comeback from injury, but Taylor admits that he was happy just to be playing the sport he loves once again.
“I didn’t really have a concern about my head going into the game.
“One of my first carries I got a whack on that side and it was fine – it was just my match fitness that was a worry!
"That first carry definitely settled the nerves. I felt good to be back out there."
Not just focussed on the here and now, Taylor has also kept an eye on next season where he and the team will be hoping to see crowds in Edinburgh Rugby's newly built stadium, where he likened the players’ excitement to school children been let out of class to play at break.
“The new stadium is fantastic, it’s a great surface to play on.
“The first day out there the boys were like being let out for break at primary school, running around the playground, hopping and jumping on it.
“It’s a great surface, and I’m sure some quick rugby will be played on it. The fans will be really close to the pitch, there’ll be a really good buzz and atmosphere when they’re back.
“Our fans make good noise anyway, so I think with the new stadium we’ll attract more, and hopefully sell it out most weeks.”