EDINBURGH head coach Alan Solomons has had to discuss his injury list at considerable length each time he has made a team announcement in recent months and, while the cynics out there might suggest that this is nothing more than excuse making for his team’s failings, it is only fair to point out that it has been pretty hard for him to talk about anything else.
He is not so much picking a team at the moment as scraping one together with whatever players are available.
And there has been evidence recently that he is keen to start looking beyond the all-pervading issue of Edinburgh’s injury crisis. For example, he spoke last week about his belief that the end of the tunnel is near, adding that he was looking forward to bleeding some of his fit-again players back into the side during the next month.
It seems he may have spoken too soon. Since then he has lost the influential international pairing of Dave Denton and Ross Ford, while another Scotland regular in the shape of Al Dickinson has failed to return to the mix after being rested last weekend. At least Solomons can be thankful that none of those players are expected to be absent for very long.
“Denton’s injury is not too bad and hopefully he will be back in the mix next week. We thought it was a stinger, but at half-time it was bothering him and he had to come off. We don’t think it is long-term,” explained Solomons.
“Fordy’s back was giving him problems during the warm-up last week but he played and struggled with it so he definitely was not considered for this week,” he continued.
“But, again, we don’t think it is a major issue and he will be back next week. He was having difficulty walking in the evening and the following day because your back stiffens up in spasm. He has just stayed at home and rested up this week and our excellent medical staff are happy.”
“Dickinson still has an Achilles problem so we’d still rather rest him until that problem is right and that may be another couple of weeks,” the coach added. On the plus side, Solomons says he is looking forward to using tomorrow’s match to take a closer look at a couple of individuals who have had either very little or absolutely no game time for the club so far this season. Most notably, Grayson Hart, who has managed just 42 minutes from three appearances off the bench since the summer, will wear the No 9 jersey.
Meanwhile, Stuart McInally is set to make his first appearance for the club since deciding to convert from the back-row to hooker during the summer of 2013, although he has been named on the bench as cover for his original rather than his new position. “It is great to see Stuart back in the mix, we are pretty light on loose forwards and Stuart can cover there,’ said Solomons.
“There is no confusion about which position we see him playing – he is a hooker – but we have Hamish [Watson], [David Denton] and Cornell [du Preez] out, so we actually don’t have any other loose forwards available in our nominated European squad.”
“Stuart has played at six and eight for Edinburgh and been a very good player. In fact, Michael Bradley told me that he thought he was Edinburgh’s best forward when he was coach here, so it is good that he can slot back in there for us this weekend.”
Edinburgh suffered a frustrating setback at Zebre seven days ago, and Solomons reckons he doesn’t have to look any further than the performance of his tight five forwards for an explanation as to what went wrong. Sorting out the set-piece has been a major focus at training these past few days, and in Rory Sutherland, Ollie Atkins and Ben Toolis he has three young forwards desperate to prove that they are ready to make the step from peripheral players to key men in the side.
“The European Challenge Cup is going well for us at the moment with good wins against Bordeaux and Lyon, so this game has come at a good time for us,” said second-row Toolis.
“We are playing London Welsh back-to-back, and a couple of good results will help us coming back into the Pro 12 and our game against Treviso, which will in-turn help build some momentum as we head into our games against Glasgow.”