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London Irish on why price is now right for Ben White with Scotland

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney has given his verdict on the flourish that has swept Ben White into the No9 Scotland jersey ahead of Ali Price. The Exiles’ half-back started just once in his first nine Test appearances for the Scots, but he got the jump on the 2021 Lions player last month in the Guinness Six Nations, starting the matches against England, Wales and France.

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That selection was no mean feat for the 24-year-old who is in his second season at London Irish after he initially made the breakthrough in the pro ranks at Leicester. White played second fiddle last term at the London club to ex-Wallabies No9 Nick Phipps, but he patiently bided his time and has since gone on to become a first choice – not only at Irish but also for Scotland.

“Sometimes lads get into a groove and build confidence when they are starting matches regularly,” explained Kidney about White taking the No9 jersey for both club and country. “Ben has a very competitive mindset, and his form has been very good right throughout the season.

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“To be displacing somebody like Ali in Scotland shows the level that he is at. I wouldn’t know the ins and outs of how Ali is going but when Ben gets his chance, he is inclined to make the most of it and I suppose that is what Gregor (Townsend) is looking at, that his form is good.

“Whether they will change it or not this weekend (against Ireland), I don’t know. I don’t want to be putting the yips on him, but they are two very good scrum-halves, and this year Ben is getting the nod. Last year he was finishing to Ali, this year he is getting the nod over him so there is obviously not a whole lot between them in Gregor’s eyes.”

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Why the sudden difference? “He is enjoying it. That is what we have talked about, just to enjoy it because you never know. It is a competitive environment getting on any international team and it has gone well for him. He is very professional, turns up for work.

“Sometimes in the Premiership the lads coming back from Welsh, Scottish duty, they must put their best foot forward and Ben has done that. He arrived down (last week to face Newcastle). We have a great high-performance team here, we look after them, we don’t flog them during the week.

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“While he did play a lot of minutes the last day, it was that type of game where he was able to do it and even though he did play a game, he looked a bit fresher going back (to Scotland) than he did when he arrived back to us.”

What was While like playing the patience game at London Irish last season behind the now-departed Phipps? “Nick was very generous with his time but also very competitive in holding his position so Ben would have learned from him, both about playing and how also how to hold the position.

“Ben wouldn’t want to give up anything easily. That is the combative nature of the guy and that is what gives him those little half-breaks he is inclined to make as well too. Sometimes there is not really gap there but it is just his sheer will power sees him through them.”

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