George Taylor: Edinburgh’s On-Form Centre Discusses His Season So Far
Edinburgh Rugby centre George Taylor has enjoyed a tremendous run of form for the capital club as of late, but Taylor did not come in to pre-season training seeing any kind of starting berth in his sights. Here, he reveals how initiative and a willingness to graft hard has finally begun to pay off.
Taylor is enjoying a good run of form and recently re-signed with Edinburgh. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
George Taylor is well dressed in his after-match suit and likeably polite when he comes up to the press deck of BT Murrayfield following Edinburgh’s 29-19 win over Glasgow Warriors just three days before Hogmanay 2019.
It’s the second game of the 1872 Cup fixtures, and Taylor has started against the Warriors in both fixtures. It is a turn of events that, had you told him during pre-season would happen, then he, by his own admission, most likely would not have believed you.
The 23-year-old former Melrose and Scotland Under-20 player, who first signed for Richard Cockerill’s side in May 2018, claimed only sporadic amounts of game-time last season and was not expecting to be so quickly boosted to the starting-team ranks this season.
Finding his feet at a new club meant that the borderer was content with his limited appearances last year. However, Taylor recognised that professional rugby means you have to take every opportunity afforded to you, and that on occasion, you have to go and make the opportunities for yourself.
And so, that was how the young centre came to find himself standing outside of Cockerill’s door, trying to muster the courage to knock and have a much needed talk about where he stood in the head coach’s squad.
“When I went to speak to him, he said, ‘Look you’re a 13 and I’m not going to drop James Johnstone or Mark Bennett’. And I said, I can play 12, and he said, ‘Oh well, I didn’t know that’. So, he gave me the opportunity to train there and he was pleased with what he saw. So, now he knows.”
The talk certainly seemed to have worked in his favour as, despite not featuring in Edinburgh’s two pre-season friendlies, Taylor began to become a regular feature on the bench before progressing to the starting line-up.
It wasn’t easy for Taylor, confronting the elephant in the room. But he knew that he couldn’t continue to turf through another season the way he had his first. As, in a mental sense, not being picked can become draining for a professional player.
“It’s probably training that’s the hardest,” Taylor explained. “Just because you’re knocking your pan in everyday in training and still sort of knowing that you might not be selected at the weekend.”
“It’s mentally demanding all the time, because you’ve got to keep on track and keep focused. If you slack off, then boys ahead of you will progress. I came from Melrose, and obviously didn’t get a lot of game time last year. I felt quite fresh, but maybe not as confident going in to games because I’ve not had that exposure to the match fitness or the match physicality.”
Taylor certainly doesn’t seem to have had any issue confronting the realities of the professional match-day environment this season. Sensibly though, the young centre has sought out the advice of teammates who are more familiar with the starting centre berths.
“It’s good training alongside the likes of Mark Bennett and Matt Scott – obviously they’ve been there, and kind of done it. So, it’s good gathering up all the experience I can from them.”
Taylor on the run against Glasgow at Scotstoun. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
Taylor has also learned the psychological resilience it takes to bide your time on the side lines, and he now knows what is required, mentally, to be called upon to slot in to a centre partnership in the aftermath of another player’s injury. After all, it was injuries which originally cracked open the door for Taylor’s to batter his way into the starting side.
“I think I feel more integrated in the squad. You have the respect and the trust from the boys around you. And I think, just as a part of team chemistry, it’s good that they’re not worrying about someone new coming in to the squad and making little mistakes.”
As of yet, whilst he is still finding his footing in the starting team, Taylor has not hit many a bum note. In fact, he has assisted scores, finished off tries of his own, and displayed an impressive amount of brutish physicality in his backline ball carrying.
And so, when looking back to pre-season and the individual who was imagining another season of limited game time, Taylor is happy to note how far he has come in just half a season of fixtures. And, he certainly credits his meeting with Cockerill as being the catalyst for his run of selection.
“I’m happy I went to speak to him. It’s obviously a tough job, and quite daunting, going and doing that. But, in the light of things it was the right decision. And he said that he appreciated me going to speak to him, and obviously, clearing up that I can play several positions.
Heading in to a new year, and the second half of the season, having signed a contract extension, it is expected that, should he remain in the same form he has been enjoying as of late, Taylor will have a good stake to claim on Cockerill’s number 12 jersey.