With one win from four games so far in this Pro 12 campaign, plus a minor injury crisis to add to their woes, Edinburgh are in desperate need of an injection of positive energy – and winger Damien Hoyland wants to be the man to deliver that morale boost.
The 22-year-old made his first appearance for the club this season in Saturday’s defeat away to Munster after recovering from a groin injury and, although that was generally a frustrating experience, living off scraps behind a heavily outgunned scrum, he saw enough positive signs in the way the backline operated with what little possession they did get to be reassured that better times could be just around the corner.
Hoyland accepts that Edinburgh are still falling short of the standard required to be truly competitive against the top teams in the league, but says the team remain fully behind under-fire coach Alan Solomons.
“The players and all the coaching staff are all behind him 100 per cent and that will never change. We are all in it together for the long haul,” said Hoyland.
“We had a few bad games to start with when the weather was atrocious and it was hard to get into a flow of nice attacking rugby, whereas last week anyone who watched it will say that we had a few nice attacking plays. Maybe our scrums didn’t go the way we would have liked but, if you are to look at our line-outs and the variety we had, Munster struggled a lot to defend against us there. And comparing that to last year, when off line-outs it would just be mauls most of the time, I think teams are finding it a lot harder to predict what we are going to do.”
“What is frustrating is that we left a lot out there. A few times we could have scored tries and the ones we gave away were quite soft. It is frustrating in that sense but better than the previous week when we did not create as many opportunities.”
Hoyland managed the full 80 minutes and, although there were one or two rough edges in terms of positioning and general match fitness, he was pretty satisfied.
Now the target is to play his way into contention for national selection during the Autumn Test series. He has already been capped twice, as a replacement in a World Cup warm-up match against Italy last year, and from the start in the first Test against Japan this summer.
“I maybe did not get the ball in as much space as I would have liked but I did get it a fair few times, and it was great to be taking contact again after being out for six weeks. I am flying going into this [next game away to Connacht on Friday]. I am confident after starting for Scotland in the summer and keen to get another crack,” added Hoyland.
“The November Tests have always been a goal for me but I have to take it a step at a time and the most important thing is getting back in the Edinburgh team. The main thing iis that the more times I get the ball the more influence I can have on the game, so it’s about getting on the ball as much as I can and then carrying on working on my defence.”
Connacht have had an even more disappointing start to the season than Edinburgh, and currently prop up the Pro 12 table without so much as a losing bonus point – although they do have a game in hand as their clash against Zebre was abandoned due to lightning.
The Irish side, last year’s champions, will view this game as a golden opportunity to kickstart their season, but Hoyland says Edinburgh have a point or two to prove as well.
“I feel we’ve got the right gameplan to go out and do a job on them,” he said. “It is about taking opportunities, and identifying the opportunities we have created as well. If everyone has a combined understanding of their roles it will happen. In training today everything seemed to click, so the main thing is making sure that happens in the game this weekend.
“And, hopefully, I’ll get a bit of ball in space this week, or I’ll go looking for it, because I think I can create an opportunity or do something to help the team win.”