AS IF new coach Alan Solomons did not have enough on his plate with trying to get Edinburgh ready for the kick-off of the RaboDirect Pro12 against Munster at Musgrave Park tomorrow evening after only three weeks in the country, he is now also operating beneath the shadow of a mini injury crisis.
At the same time as it was being announced yesterday that Greig Laidlaw will captain the club for the third consecutive season, it was also explained that the talismanic scrum-half is likely to be out for a month with damaged medial ligaments in his knee.
Laidlaw is one of five capped players missing from Edinburgh’s backline due to injury – alongside centre Matt Scott, wingers Tim Visser and Nikki Walker, and full-back Tom Brown. Key forwards Ross Rennie, Steven Lawrie and Stuart McInally are also currently unavailable.
It is a far from ideal situation but Solomons is determined to look on the bright side.
“That’s rugby. Sometimes you go a season with virtually no injuries and sometimes you have a lot of injuries. It’s just the way it goes. There is nothing anyone can do. But it is not going to be too long until everyone is back – they are not long-term injuries,” he said.
“I like to think these things happen for a reason and look at it in a positive light. It gives real opportunities to other players, and gives us the chance to assess the depth of the squad.
“Greig plays the game against Newcastle and unfortunately picks up an injury but that makes way for Sean Kennedy, who is a really promising young player, to come into the side.
“Matt Scott, another top-flight international, injures his ankle 20 minutes into the Northampton game. Tim Visser is only now starting to take part in practices [after hurting his heel on the hard grounds in South Africa during Scotland’s summer tour]. But I have every confidence in the players who are coming into the backline. We’ve got young Dougie Fife and Lee Jones out on the wing, who are two good players, and we’ve got Ben Atiga, who has recovered from his knee injury to come in at inside centre.”
Back five forward Sean Cox takes on the captain’s armband in Laidlaw’s absence, but the half-back’s importance to the Edinburgh cause was underlined by his presence at the top table during yesterday’s team announcement.
“After being here three weeks and being able to assess the situation I made the decision that Greig should be the captain for the 2013-14 season,” explained Solomons.
“He’s an experienced player, he’s an experienced captain and he understands the Edinburgh set-up well. From what I’ve been able to gauge in my discussions with him and in watching him, he will do a superb job as a leader for us, and I think he espouses and epitomises the culture that we want to bring to Edinburgh.”
As if to underline that point, Laidlaw chipped in with some typical straight talking about how he expects Edinburgh to improve during the months ahead.
“Training has been very good and very intense. There is a very clear gameplan that Alan and the coaching team have put in place and we want to be a new Edinburgh this year. We want to be a tough defensive outfit, and that’s something I am very high on trying to get across. I said to the boys after the Newcastle game that if we can carry on the season limiting teams to just five points like we did there, then we’ll be in a better position than we put ourselves in last year,” said Laidlaw.
“There’s no point hiding from it. We know that the ‘Edinburgh Way’ we have played in the last couple of seasons has not worked. We’ve been trying to play the ball too much, especially in our own half, and I think you’ll see a difference in that this year – you don’t score points by playing rugby in your own half.”
That all starts, of course, in Cork tomorrow night.
Scrum-half Kennedy up against childhood heroes
IT’S a huge game for all the Edinburgh squad but Saturday night’s Rabo Pro 12 curtain-raiser against Munster has particular resonance for scrum-half Sean Kennedy – and not just because it is his big chance to stake a claim for more regular access to the No 9 jersey.
Kennedy, who has been drafted into the side in place of injured captain Greig Laidlaw, spent much of his childhood living in Limerick, and it was during this time that he caught the rugby bug. Now he is determined to go out against his boyhood heroes and put on a good show for all his relatives who will be at the game.
“I was born over here, but we moved over there when I was two, and I was there for about ten years before coming back to start high school in Alloa,” explains the 22-year-old.
“In Limerick everyone wants to play for Munster so it is pretty special running out against the team you followed when you were growing up”
Having played a handful of games last year for Edinburgh and also on loan to Glasgow, Kennedy is not a complete novice at this level. And now, having proven that he is able and willing to fill in at this level on a stop-gap basis, he is determined to make his residency in the team a little more permanent.
“Greig is a big player for us so I have to perform well against Munster and with him being out for a while, hopefully that gives me a chance to carry on into the following week and beyond.’