Sam Hidalgo-Clyne: Scotland scrum-half 'would have had to' turn down Rugby World Cup berth

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne spent the final two months of last season on loan at Harlequins in the English Premiership

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne has revealed he "would have had to" decline a place in Scotland's Rugby World Cup training squad, because of the damage it would have done to his club career.

The scrum-half, 25, narrowly missed out on selection for Gregor Townsend's pre-tournament squad.

Hidalgo-Clyne had fallen out of favour at Scarlets and being in training with Scotland over summer would have severely hampered his chances of finding a new club.

"I said to Gregor, from my experiences from the 2015 World Cup, if I'd got picked as fourth-choice scrum-half, I would have had to say no," he told BBC Scotland.

"It would have meant I'd have been at Scarlets for another year, not knowing where I would have been in the pecking order, and I probably wouldn't have made the final squad for the World Cup."

'Look at how my season was after that'

It jars to hear a player talk, even hypothetically, of turning down the chance to book a ticket to rugby's greatest show. But this was the choice that would have faced Hidalgo-Clyne: spend summer in the national camps, and more than likely go back to being Scarlets bench fodder come September, or forego a World Cup shot in favour of nailing down his future.

Shattering Scotland's established first-choice trio of Greig Laidlaw, Ali Price and George Horne would have been fiendishly difficult.

Instead, Hidalgo-Clyne has won a short-term deal at Racing 92, one of Europe's richest and most glamorous clubs, providing the Parisians with cover during the World Cup period.

"As much as I would have loved to be in training [with Scotland], a World Cup cover contract where I can get some game time for a top-quality side would actually be more beneficial for my rugby than training, being fourth-choice and potentially being back in Wales," he says.

"Even if I was third choice, I would have really had to consider because you're not guaranteed game time. I went to the World Cup as third choice in 2015 and played 11 minutes. Look at how my season was after that.

"Unless I was guaranteed to be playing and I felt like I was going to be playing, not from what I would have been told, that's just a decision I would have had to make.

"If I hadn't gone to the 2015 World Cup, I maybe would have looked at it differently, but my previous experience and the detrimental effect the World Cup had on the following season, that's probably the decision I would have had to make, unfortunately."

'You have a bad game and get hammered for it'

Four years ago, Hidalgo-Clyne came searing on to the scene at Edinburgh, an exhilarating attacking nine and a cute goal-kicker. He was named Pro12 young player of the season and won the first clutch of his dozen caps.

That breakthrough campaign propelled him into Vern Cotter's squad for the 2015 World Cup, but as third-choice behind Laidlaw and Henry Pyrgos, his only outing came off the bench in a pool shellacking by South Africa with many frontline players rested.

"I was away for four-and-a-bit months, plus pre-season, and played 11 minutes of rugby," Hidalgo-Clyne, who spent the final two months of the season on loan at Harlequins, says.

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
Hidalgo-Clyne played only 11 minutes of rugby at the 2015 Rugby World Cup

"You come back and you're expected to do everything. I wasn't so much a young kid any more because I'd been to a World Cup, more pressure came on, you have a bad game and you get hammered for it, and I very much went into my shell back then when I got feedback.

"This is where I think coaches sometimes get it really wrong. You need to know your players, and if you go into your shell, you're not going to play well the next week. I'm a big believer of everyone being confident and learning from your mistakes, but of feedback being constructive, not sometimes being hammered on you."

'I essentially didn't want to be there'

Although loath to criticise any of his former coaches, Hidalgo-Clyne believes rugby must do more to support players' mental wellbeing.

"You've got to want to go out on a wet rainy day and realise you've got a pretty good job," he says. "I remember parts of my career I was nervous to be playing or even training because I essentially didn't want to be there - I wasn't enjoying things.

"You have the opportunity to approach people that will help you, but a lot of players aren't just going to open up and trust a random person the club have provided them with.

"The top sides have got a very good balance, where it's not a business mindset, it's an environment where everyone is close to each other. Some clubs have absolutely nailed that and some haven't quite got there yet."

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