Denton believes 2012 Euro run can inspire Edinburgh

Denton promotes tonight's match at Murrayfield, where a win will see Edinburgh qualify for the last eight of the Challenge Cup. Picture: SNS
Denton promotes tonight's match at Murrayfield, where a win will see Edinburgh qualify for the last eight of the Challenge Cup. Picture: SNS
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IT WOULD be foolish to view Edinburgh’s form in the European Challenge Cup this season as comparable to their achievement in reaching the Heineken Cup semi-finals three years ago.

Forget about the fact that the class of 2012 made it all the way to the last four whereas the current side have yet to make it out the pool stages (they must get a positive result at home to Bordeaux-Begles this evening to ensure their progression); the key difference is the fact that Edinburgh are currently competing in Europe’s second tier competition, which is miles away in terms of both standard and prestige from the top flight Champions Cup.

Any success the capital outfit has in this season’s continental odyssey must be viewed within the context of the fact that the best 20 teams in Europe are not involved.

That is not to say, however, Edinburgh’s European record this season of four wins and a narrow away defeat in Lyon last weekend should be dismissed as totally devoid of merit.

As David Denton – who was in his breakthrough season with the club during that Heineken Cup run of 2011-12 – points out, the opportunity to play at a slightly lower level against beatable teams has allowed Edinburgh to generate some positive momentum within a squad which has lurched hopelessly between disappointment and disaster in recent seasons.

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“It has been good for us to be in the Challenge Cup this year and get some good performances in,” he said. “We have played some really good rugby. I am feeling something very similar [to the mood in 2012] in the team at the moment. Whether we are in the Champions or the Challenge Cup, it is hugely important for us.”

While that means that this season cannot possibly witness a repeat of Edinburgh’s quarter-final clash against Toulouse in 2012 (when a crowd of 37,881 were at Murrayfield to roar the Scots to victory over the four time European Champions), Denton believes the memory of that great day can act as a spur for another big performance against French opposition this evening.

“That match against Toulouse was right up there in terms of my rugby experiences. My first cap will be something I never forget, and the 1872 Cup win a few weeks ago as well, but the Toulouse game was life changing. It was something we had never done and nobody expected it from us. That’s the best time to get results like that,” he said.

“And it is kind of the position we are in now. No one is expecting anything from us this season. They’ve not thought we are the calibre of team that we know we are, and it is nice to prove all these people wrong.

“Everyone is so excited about this game. The potential of being involved in knockout rugby again – and possibly at Murrayfield – really does bring back memories of the Toulouse game. It is a very fond memory for many players in the squad.”

Those who weren’t there three years ago will be determined to create a few memories of their own, and for the three youngest members of tonight’s team there is the added incentive of making a case for an ­active role in Scotland’s RBS Six Nations campaign.

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (21), Ben Toolis (22) and Hamish Watson (23) were all called into Vern Cotter’s training squad this week, and Denton sees no reason why that triumvirate cannot repeat his achievement of breaking into the international team almost as soon as he had made his name at club level.

The No 8 added that Toolis in particular has made a compelling case for selection.

“They’ve all been playing really good rugby but Ben in particular has really stood up over the past few weeks. Grant Gilchrist’s injury was seen as a huge problem for the club because he is obviously a talisman for our team and a central figure in our set-piece, so we were all really concerned, but Ben has shown an incredible amount of maturity in the last few games,” said the 24-year-old.

The fact that Denton is the only bona fide No 8 selected in Cotter’s squad is surely a good omen for the player himself, but he knows not to count his chickens before they hatch.

“My involvement in the Autumn Tests was fairly limited because of injury so it’s great to be back. But we’ve got a big hurdle in front of us before I can start thinking about Scotland and I’m going to have to perform very well this weekend to cement my place in the team,” he said.

Any sort of win for Edinburgh tonight will see them qualify for the last eight, as will a draw with a four try bonus point. However, anything less than that would leave the Scots relying on other results going their way.

Edinburgh

15 N McLennan

14 D Fife

13 M Scott

12 P Burleigh

11 T Visser

10 G Tonks

9 S Hidalgo-Clyne

1 A Dickinson

2 R Ford

3 WP Nel

4 A Bresler

5 B Toolis

6 M Coman (capt)

7 H Watson

8 D Denton

Subs

16 N Cochrane

17 R Sutherland

18 J Andress

19 F McKenzie

20 R Grant

21 S Kennedy

22 J Te Rure

23 A Strauss

Bordeaux

15 B Serin (capt)

14 L Aumua

13 C Brousse

12 T Lacroix

11 P Riva

10 L Beauxis

9 H Adams

1 J Poirot

2 B Auzqui

3 F Gomez Kodela

4 J Le Devedec

5 J Andre Marais

6 B Guiry

7 H Chalmers

8 T Tuifua

Subs

16 O Avei

17 S Taofifenua

18 P Toetu

19 J-B Poux

20 M Graham

21 Y Lesgourgues

22 P Bernard

23 M Clarkin