Press Pass: Blair on 22/23 captains

Press Pass: Blair on 22/23 captains

Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke to media following the announcement of the club's new co-captains, Jamie Ritchie and Grant Gilchrist.

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On appointing two co-captains

“It’s something we’ve done previously and it’s proved to be a success. That’s the history behind it; the more philosophical reason behind it is we believe it’s a big job, and sharing the responsibility of it will allow each of them to focus on the team but on their own games as well. Share the responsibility, share ideas.

“I’ve spoken to both of them about who will speak to the ref on-field and I’d like to give Jamie experience. He captained a game for us last season – Zebre away – and Gilco has obviously done that a lot as well.

“Gilco was our onfield captain last year, with him and Stuart [McInally] both involved. It’s a decision we’ll make nearer the time.”

On which players will step up during international windows

“Last season we spread the vice-captaincy around a bit. We had Ben Vellacott in a couple of games, we had Henry Pyrgos, James Lang, Mark Bennett, Dave Cherry, Luke Crosbie

“We’ve got to try and bring up that level of leadership throughout the squad, so giving guys experience. Yes, it’s just two initials beside your name, but I think it gives those guys added responsibility.

“We’re trying to upskill those guys, give them experiences so if our captains aren’t playing we’ve got someone who can step up really well.”

On why he’s appointment Jamie co-captain now

“When I spoke to the players about it on Monday I felt that those two guys epitomised what we wanted Edinburgh Rugby players to be. Training on field they’re the most consistent, committed players that we’ve got. You can’t help but play for them because of what they do on the pitch and the places they put their heads where other people might not.

“So that level of inspiring the team was a big thing. It’s something that Jamie wants to do as well.

“With leadership people don’t always want to have their head above the parapet, but it’s something that he wants to do. He wants to get better at it, he wants to challenge himself, he sees it as an important role in the team and one that he can do as well.

“I want to mention Stuart McInally as well, because although he wont have an official title, I see him as being part of that group of three. He’s an outstanding man, he was brilliant for us last season with on-field stuff and off-field stuff as well, in particular around connecting with the young players and being someone to speak to about experiences, issues.

“I’ve spoken to the players and to Stuart about it all. Although he’s not been named as a co-captain – I felt we couldn’t have a co-co-captain – he’ll be very much part of that leadership team as well.”

On using the club’s 150th anniversary as motivation for the squad

“I believe you’ll get a stronger performance if there’s an emotional attachment to the occasion.

“That might be someone winning their 100th cap, or their 50th cap, it might be the 150th year, it might be that we’ve got a sell-out crowd, or the opposition we’re playing.

“I believe creating emotion within an occasion is really important, and there’s no doubt that playing and being involved in the 150th year for the club will have an extra pull and motivation on the guys as well.”

On speaking to co-captains about some of their illustrious predecessors

“When I did my first meeting at the start of the season – and I did it last season as well – I talked about the history of the club. And we talked about the 150th year and our centurions, our former players and our former Lions.

“So trying to instil that traditional part of the club, attaching an emotion to why we play the game and our chapter within the history of the club as well.

“There are some brilliant names there – we talked about some of them in that meeting. It’s these guys’ turn in the jersey now and they’re there to add to the history of the club.”

On whether he was a ‘good captain’ during his playing days

“No. No. Sorry, a deadpan no probably isn’t right. I believe that my leadership was probably more around detail and understanding. I wouldn’t say my leadership was inspirational – I wouldn’t say I was someone who was really able to rally the troops and get an emotional response out of them. An Al Kellock would be more that kind of leader.

“I’m not saying that one’s right or one’s wrong. But something that Gilko is able to do is have the technical, tactical side and be able to lead from that side of things in terms of the detail and understanding of what we’re doing, but he’s also able to pull the emotional side out – the understanding of how to get the best from individuals.

“So one part of the leadership I was probably quite strong at, but the other bit I don’t think I was an inspirational captain.”

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