ARE Scottish players capable of taking criticism on the chin?

Over at Glasgow earlier this season there were worries raised about the capacity of the players there to absorb coaching lessons but over at Edinburgh Blair Kinghorn reckons it is the brutal approach that has worked for him.

Back in November, Richard Cockerill openly ridiculed the idea that Kinghorn was ready for Test rugby. By the end of February, not only was Kinghorn in the Scotland’s squad and ready for his first cap but now he his one of the leading candidates for one of the back three positions.

“Definitely it is brutal. Sometimes people don’t like hearing the truth but I feel it teaches you the best lessons,” Kinghorn observed. “That is that way you would like it, you would not want someone to beat about the bush but to go straight for it. That is what you need to do in the professional game.”

It is not as though Cockerill’s way of doing things is particularly gentle. As the players put it diplomatically “he calls a spade a spade,” and there is no room for anybody to wilt under the onslaught.

“I’ve been working much harder the last 12 months, this season has 
been good for me under Cockers [Cockerill],” said Kinghorn. “He has driven the whole squad really well.

“Personally he has driven really well, he has got the best out of me. I have a long way to go in terms of my development but this year, I have been much more consistent.”

The result is a player who has played all of his club rugby at full-back but is more than happy playing his Test rugby as a winger. “I have played most of my rugby at 15 but I have played on the wing before so if I am needed I can play on the wing,” he said

“I am really enjoying being in the camp just now but we will have to wait and see what the team selection is.

“You have to put your own stamp on a certain position so you don’t want to be too versatile – in a way. Being in the back three everything is linked; if you are a 15 you can play on the wing, if you are a wing you can play at 15. The way the game is evolving it is like having three full backs in the back three.”

Not that he has given up all hopes of ousting Stuart Hogg from the full-back role, though it does look likely that this week Hogg will return against the USA and Kinghorn will shift despite a solid outing at full back last week.

“I am never going to think I can’t be better than somebody but I am trying to learn as much as possible from Hoggy as he is world class and has lots of experience at Test and club rugby. He is really helpful and I pick bits and bobs off him,” he said.

“Probably, as long as I keep on top of everything and can keep consistent on all my skills, versatility is definitely a good strength to have.

“I have been working hard on my kicking, all aspects kick off goal kicking, the whole season at Edinburgh but have not been needed because we have had Duncy, Jaco, Sammy who have been doing well. I have been working hard at all my micro skills to that when it comes to game time I can perform them.”

The important thing is that he manages to keep his position in the squad long enough to cement his place in the squad come the World Cup selection next week.

At the last World Cup, he was still at school watching from the sidelines 
but now the 21-year-old is among the frontrunners as long as he remains injury free.

“Definitely, it is a goal for everyone in rugby to be in that World Cup squad,” he admitted. “That is why we are here at the moment to try to work towards that. The main case is to put your hand up for selection and when playing to put your best foot forward. Then next season with Edinburgh try to be consistently good.”

The way the last year has gone, you would not rule out that he will be one of the first names on the teamsheet come Japan. It is as far as you can get from the assessment a few months ago – and taking brutal criticism on the chin lay at the heart of his transformation.