Rugby: New Edinburgh signings are just Barry, insists Stewart
Edinburgh RUGBY'S latest signings from the Aviva English Premiership were today given glowing appraisals by a former Capital internationalist who played alongside both utility forward Sean Cox and scrum half Chris Leck at Sale Sharks.
Barry Stewart, capped five times at prop by Scotland between 1996 and 2000, was coming towards the end of an illustrious career when the pair came on board.
But he saw enough both on and off the pitch to suggest shrewd business has been done, particularly in the case of Cox, pictured below, whom he compares favourably with former national cap record holder and team captain, Scott Murray.
Says Stewart, now back in Edinburgh and working in the financial sector with Brewin Dolphin, sponsors of the schools cup: "Towards the end of my career I played with Coxy in some incredibly important matches but even as a youngster our then coach, Philippe St Andre, had no hesitation in putting him in and he was well rewarded.
"Turning round in the front row and seeing Coxy behind me I didn't bat an eyelid because I knew he was up to the job. What's more if it all kicked off I knew he'd be right alongside. He can handle himself if necessary.
"Coxy got quite a bit of first-team experience when I was at Sale and showed himself to be a pretty capable forward who is competent in both second row and back row.
"He is a great athlete for a big lad and pretty hard as far as the mental side of the game is concerned. Not much is going to get to him. He'll have seen a lot in his young years at the rugby coal face.
"I'm entirely biased but I have an awful lot of time for Sean Cox. He has a lot of the athleticism of Scott Murray at a comparable age. He is also a terrific athlete whose strength in the set-piece is deceptively powerful.
"Possibly Sean has an understated demeanour but that can be misleading.
"He doesn't present himself as a super-star even if he has aspirations to be that. But his head is screwed on and he'll graft his heart out while if push comes to shove he won't be found hiding. He'll make his presence felt and it will be quite considerable. In the Magners League he'll be an unknown quantity and that will be useful . Edinburgh forwards coach Tom Smith is going to have someone with the ability and potential to cause some upsets.
"Sean can be a disruptive force in the line-out and if there is sufficient balance in the pack he can be fielded at second row. If not he can play back row.
"At Sale he was in the shadow of England forward Chris Jones who is in a similar mould but this move to Edinburgh will allow him to move out of that shadow. I don't want to steal anybody's thunder but my suspicion is that Tom Smith got in touch with Northampton coach Jim Mallender who had earlier brought Cox and Leck on board when he was academy coach at Sale. That's how rugby contacts works and Edinburgh have not got the benefit of that networking.
"As for Chris Leck I know him as a very good sevens player. He is very disciplined and has had a lot of input from his dad, Phil, who is heavily involved at Sale but not in an interfering way so far as his son is concerned. Besides, Phil is more of a forwards coach."
Cox, 26, brings with him the experience of 64 outings in the English Premiership, a dozen of them in the season just ended, in addition to 16 appearances in the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup.
He has represented England from schools to under-21 level, and is a former Sale Sharks 'Breakthrough Player of the Year'.
The 25-year-old Leck has played 11 times in the English Premiership and five times in Europe as well as representing England at under-16 and under-18 level.
Stewart added: "This is a chance for both to make their names in rugby and I'm thrilled because they both deserve to succeed."
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