George Turner: Hooker describes 'frustrating' route to Scotland squad

George Turner
George Turner (yellow scrum cap) has made only 11 appearances in six seasons at Edinburgh

George Turner insists he cannot afford to spend another season on the periphery of Edinburgh's squad.

The hooker, 24, is one of three uncapped players in Gregor Townsend's first Scotland camp since the latter succeeded Vern Cotter as head coach.

But in six years at Pro12 Edinburgh, Turner has made just one start.

"I can't go through another frustrating year of not getting any game time," he said ahead of June fixtures against Italy, Australia and Fiji.

"I've been in some dark places last year. Hopefully, I'm good enough that I can compete with [fellow hookers] Ross Ford and Stuart McInally for that number one spot at Edinburgh."

Arrested development

Despite making his Edinburgh debut in October 2014, Turner has been limited to just 11 appearances for the club, and only earned his maiden start in the penultimate round of this season's Pro12 in late April.

Edinburgh have never finished higher than eighth since the league's inception, and have undergone a turbulent period of fluctuating strategies and major turnover in personnel during Turner's career.

Despite a rejuvenating loan spell at London Scottish earlier this season, he fears the lack of game time has stunted his progression.

"Frustrating is the word for the last few years," Turner said. "Obviously, [former head coach] Alan Solomons came in, changed the structure, focused on the forwards.

George Turner and Ross Ford
Ford (right), Scotland's most capped forward, has been in situ at Edinburgh since Turner joined the club

"We had Ross Ford there already, then Neil Cochrane came in, and Stuart McInally, who has Scotland experience, came in. They're all captains - when everyone's away [with Scotland] all the hookers seem to be captains.

"I could barely get a way in. I always tried to train hard and get into the team.

"They were looking to win games, the coaches maybe felt under pressure and were sticking with what they know.

"I understand that to a point, but I was a good player, over the years I would have been further developed than what I am now [if I had played] and I could have had Scotland caps or [attended] a Scotland camp a couple of years ago, maybe."

'My senses are fried'

Turner joins Nick Grigg and D'arcy Rae of Glasgow Warriors in seeking his first taste of international rugby next month, when Scotland will play Tests in Singapore, Sydney and Suva on consecutive Saturdays.

The Scotland Under-20s cap admits he was shocked by the call-up, but is desperate to seize the opportunity before him.

"My senses are fried - I've been learning loads," he said. "The next levels and tempo, the speed at which we're playing has been brought up a notch because we're trying to play really fast rugby.

Gregor Townsend
Townsend is preparing for his first Tests as Scotland head coach

"Obviously, I was excited and a bit nervous when I came in and it showed a bit. I made a couple of obvious mistakes, but I'm working on that, trying to get better and improve.

"They've picked me for a reason - they like the way I play, what little they've seen of it, I'm an aggressive and dynamic ball-carrier and defender. I'm trying to show that in training to keep up with what they're expecting.

"As a rugby player, you can train all you like, I've got all the systems down, but it's doing it on the day that's important, and you only get that from playing. You'll be more developed the more you play."

New coach, new opportunities?

Former Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill takes over as Edinburgh's head coach for next season.

The ex-England hooker held one-to-one meetings with each of his new players earlier this month and is known to hold Turner in high regard.

"I'd heard through the grapevine that he was a fan of the way I played, dynamically and aggressively," Turner said.

Richard Cockerill
Cockerill, currently in charge at Toulon, will lead Edinburgh next season

"A couple of times in the chat he was saying I'm a local boy from Edinburgh, still youngish, and he liked me because I'm not the biggest hooker in Scottish rugby, but I'm still here and I can compete.

"He said, 'You must be quite good, if you're small'. It was a positive meeting.

"A change is good, and to be told that he really likes how I play boosted my confidence straight away."

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