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Stand-out stand-offs commit to the capital

Guinness PRO12 Editor

3 Jan 2012

Edinburgh Rugby have secured the future of two of Scotland’s brightest young stand-offs for a further two years, keeping the pair at Murrayfield until 2014.

Since making their debut this season Harry Leonard (19) and Gregor Hunter (20) have played crucial roles for the club in the seven opportunities they’ve each taken to orchestrate the side.

Hunter grabbed his chance to shine earlier in the season with the match-winning try in the 19-14 win over Connacht at Murrayfield, while Leonard’s man-of-the-match performance against Treviso helped the club to their first away win of the season.

Leonard and Hunter are the latest players to commit their future to the club, following on from the contract extensions of captain Greig Laidlaw, and forward units David Denton, Stuart McInally, Sean Cox and Steven Turnbull.

Head coach Michael Bradley said: “Harry [Leonard] and Gregor [Hunter] are both quality individuals and I’m delighted that they have committed their future to Edinburgh Rugby.

“Both players have already displayed a dynamism and flair to create opportunities for the players around them as well as the composure to control games with territorial and positional awareness, well beyond their years.

“At just 19 and 20 this is a crucial stage in their development in the number 10 jersey and I’m sure that they will both benefit from having such a close competitor here at the club.”

Both players have come through Scottish Rugby’s elite development programme (EDP) however their journeys to the capital club are quite different.

Born in Brighton, Leonard, who qualifies for Scotland through his Scottish mother (from Glasgow) was brought up through the Scottish Rugby exile programme and moved north to pursue his professional rugby career while playing at Boroughmuir.

He signed as an EDP in the summer of 2011 before being selected to spend 18 weeks in Christchurch, New Zealand, benefiting from the Canterbury International High Performance Unit as part of the Macphail Scholarship

Leonard has represented Scotland through the age-grades, most recently as captain in the 2011 U20 6 Nations a year early, which means the stand-off qualifies for a second U20 6 Nations this spring.

He said: “Since returning from New Zealand I’ve become a real part of the Edinburgh Rugby squad and have had some invaluable experience of both the RaboDirect PRO12 and the Heineken Cup – with our away win over London Irish a real stand-out career highlight.

“I’m really happy to be staying on at this club. Murrayfield is a fantastic place to train and play, with the coaching team providing a huge amount of support for every player.

“Their hard work means I can focus in on specific elements of my game as personal add-ons to training, helping me reach my full potential.

“It’s a really exciting time for me personally and for Edinburgh Rugby and I’m looking forward to being part of more big nights at Murrayfield.”

Highly rated Borderer, Gregor Hunter, has been part of the Edinburgh Rugby squad since 2010, having come through the ranks at Gala RFC and Galashiels Academy.

Like Leonard, Hunter represented Scotland at under-17, U18 and U19 level, but missed his spell in the U20s due to a groin injury which kept him out of action for most of last season.

Now fully recovered Hunter is desperate to make his mark in the professional game with an extended EDP contract.

He said: “It’s great to commit to Edinburgh Rugby, put that side of the business to one side and focus on my rugby. A lot of other talented young players have signed up so I’m really looking forward to the next couple of years working with the team and Michael [Bradley].

“I’ve really enjoyed this season. It’s been really good to get some game time. Michael [Bradley] isn’t afraid to give the young players a shot and I think a lot of us have done well because of the confidence shown in our ability.”

Hunter is the latest in a line of Borderers making head-way at the club, a fact which pleases the Gala boy.

“The Borders has always been a strong area for rugby so it’s good to see that the club has a strong contingent of players from that area doing well.

“It’s good for the Borders to have these player involved. This is their team and their players are big part of Edinburgh Rugby.”

Edinburgh Rugby chief executive, Craig Docherty, said: “It’s fantastic that we are securing the services of Scotland’s top young talent and, importantly, that these players want to stay at the club because they believe they can reach their ambitions playing here.

“It’s a very exciting time as with every announcement made you can see a degree of shape forming for the future of Edinburgh Rugby.”