OF the many observations made by the loquacious Richard Cockerill in the season just ended, perhaps the wisest and most effective concerned his full-back at Edinburgh Rugby, Blair Kinghorn. First, in the autumn, the head coach insisted that his player was not ready for international duty, arguing that “the errors in his game aren’t acceptable”. Then, a mere three months later, the Englishman declared that Kinghorn was ready for Six Nations action, “because of the way he has matured in the last 12 weeks”.

Kinghorn duly went on to make his debut in the Championship, coming on as a replacement in the win over England and then starting on the wing against Ireland, and Cockerill’s assessment was proved right. At 21, and with just those two caps to his name, he is still a novice in the Test arena. But he has indeed matured with remarkable rapidity, spurred on in no small

measure by Cockerill himself, and he now has the chance over the next three weekends to cement his place in Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad that will take on Canada, the United States and Argentina.

Stuart Hogg, who has 48 more caps and is the best part of five years older, will take some shifting from the No 15 jersey, but that is a side issue. From the national team’s perspective, this short summer tour is all about preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. When it comes to the full-backs, that means helping Kinghorn close the experience gap a little by giving him game time in difficult circumstances far removed from the familiarity of BT Murrayfield.

Of course, Townsend has far more than a mere binary choice between Kinghorn and Hogg when it comes to selection. The latter’s Glasgow team-mate Ruaridh Jackson is also in the tour party of 33 and has been listed as a full-back, while Kinghorn, as we saw in Dublin, can play on the wing. All three men can also slot in at stand-off.

But, with Adam Hastings the only out-and-out 10 in the squad, Jackson looks the likeliest member of the trio to be moved up to cover at some point over the three games. And, while Kinghorn insisted at a pre-tour press conference last week that he would gladly turn out anywhere – “Wherever Gregor picks me, I’ll play,” he said – there is no value in asking him to show his versatility for the sake of it. He needs game time at 15 if his swift improvement is to continue.

He also needs the sort of support that a coach such as Townsend is sure to provide: the assurance that it is all right to try things out on the pitch in the knowledge that you learn far more that way than you do from being over-cautious. Yes, you want to minimise your errors, but, as Kinghorn himself explained, you also have to back your attacking instincts.

“I feel that mistakes are part of the game,” he said when asked to reflect on the progress he made between those

two statements of Cockerill’s in October and January. “That’s just part of life. I never want to second guess my instincts, so if I feel like it’s the right decision, I’m going to do it. If you’re going to do something, do it 100 per cent.

“If you make a mistake it’s costly; you pay for it. It was a great learning curve. You need experience to grow and I felt like I’d done that in the last couple of months.

“I completely agree with his comments. Cockers isn’t one to beat about the bush and that is great. If you’re doing something wrong he’ll tell you, and if you’re doing something right he’ll tell you as well. I feel like it really helped my learning curve last season.”

The fact that Kinghorn ascended that curve so quickly was down in part to his own preparation in training, but he also credits the general improvement Edinburgh underwent last season for providing the ideal environment for him.

“I felt like I was just working hard on everything,” he said. “Certain things just fall into place, but you make more luck if you work harder. I felt like I was working hard throughout the week and working hard for all the boys. The Edinburgh team were going really well at the time, so everything is falling into the right place as a team. Individually you can feed off that.”

Kinghorn’s turn of speed and his eye for a gap are assets wherever he plays, but, notwithstanding his insistence that he will play wherever he is asked, he is in no doubt about his most effective position.

“I see myself as a 15. Even though full-back and wing are quite similar, they are just slightly different when you’re on the pitch, just picking up little bits and pieces around the place.

“I can play 10 if needed. I don’t mind stepping into first receiver, I feel it’s quite natural to me, but I feel it’s probably a position I’m a bit out of tune with because I haven’t played it that much.”

At full-back, by contrast, there is more space in which to cause damage, especially on the counter-attack.

“Getting involved in the back field is great. When teams kick the ball to you and you get a chance to run back. And I feel like it’s good watching the game from behind, you just have more time on the ball to make the right decisions.”

And making the right decisions is something at which Kinghorn is becoming increasingly adept.