EDINBURGH head coach Mike Blair says he was disappointed at not managing to get teenage hooker Patrick Harrison any game time during Saturday’s tense European Challenge Cup defeat to London Irish – but believes that the youngster understands that being named on the bench does not mean he is guaranteed an opportunity to play. 

Harrison made his debut for the club whilst still only 18 against the Dragons back in March 2020 but has managed just two more appearances for the capital outfit since then in the Rainbow Cup at the tail-end of last season. 

His only competitive outing so far in this campaign was 15 minutes off the bench for Wasps against Saracens during a short-term loan deal with the English club as emergency injury-cover back in October. 

The Peebles-raised front-rower – who doesn’t celebrate his 20th birthday until June – is undoubtedly a player with a big future, but his lack of minutes on the paddock since moving into senior rugby cannot have helped his development.  

And with Scotland internationals Stuart McInally and Dave Cherry hoping to be back this weekend after missing the London Irish match with short-term injuries, it is hard to see that changing any time before the kick-off of the Under-20s Six Nations at the start of next month. 

“The thing that has probably changed selection for these two games a little bit has been the postponement of the two Glasgow games over Christmas because guys who potentially would have played in those matches could have been given a bit of a rest at this stage, but we feel we have international players available and we need them to get game time,” said Blair. 

“From last week into this week, the plan was always to give a few different players an opportunity in the jersey, but we are aware we can’t do it with everyone, and some guys will be really disappointed. 

“Paddy Harrison didn't get game time despite being on the bench. That's a decision we made because it didn't quite work for a time to bring him on. It was just difficult, and I potentially regret not giving Paddy an opportunity,” added Blair, who spoke to Harrison afterwards to explain the situation.  

“I always try to do that,” said the coach. “It's one of the more difficult parts of the job. I know what it's like when you are a player, and you don't get used off the bench.  

“But just because they're on the bench it doesn't mean that they have a right to get on the pitch, so what I try to do is explain why I didn't put someone on. Some players will be receptive, some won’t. Some reflect on what's been said and maybe relax a bit afterwards. I think Paddy was just disappointed. He has done really well in training with us and the cards just didn't quite fall his way. 

“Mind you, sometimes you don't mind,” added the former Scotland scrum-half. "I remember hiding behind the advertising boards in 2003 when we played [and lost 40-9] against England at Twickenham. I'd wanted to go on, but with four minutes to go I didn't want to get on, so I hid behind the advertising board. I don't know many people who have done that.” 

Edinburgh play their final Challenge Cup pool match at home to Brive on Friday night to progress to the knock-out stage of the tournament. They then visit Ospreys in the United Rugby Championship the following weekend before their Six Nations break.  

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend will name his training squad for the championship tomorrow and Blair insists that he is hoping for a bumper crop of Edinburgh players despite the challenges that will pose in terms of continuity withing his own squad. 

“I believe that the best thing for us is to get as many people selected for the Scotland squad as possible because it means they are playing really well for us, which means I'm doing my job and players are doing their jobs,” he reasoned. “And what we get left with creates more opportunities for depth in the squad.” 

Blair added that he has no idea if Edinburgh scrum-half Ben Vellacott could be in line for a call-up. 

“It's really difficult because Ali Price is obviously getting a lot of time with Glasgow, while George Horne and Jamie Dobie were above Ben in the autumn,” he said. “Ben’s done really well for us, loads of positive things, and some things for him to work on. His talent is such that he’s someone Scottish fans will want involved. He’s certainly someone to get excited about. 

“It depends what Gregor wants his bench to look like. Jamie’s probably the most different of those three behind Ali. He’s a really strong defender and a little bit more abrasive around the breakdown, in both attack and defence. George and Ben are similar. 

“I certainly think Ben is in good form at the moment and would merit involvement in the squad.”