Wing Tom Brown believes Edinburgh “belong” back at the top table of Europe and says the players will expend every last ounce of energy trying to achieve that over what remains of the Guinness Pro12.
A dogged 16-15 win at Newport Gwent Dragons on Sunday leaves Alan Solomons’ side just outside the top half of the table, where Edinburgh, who confirmed yesterday that prop John Andress will be returning to Ireland to join Munster at the end of the season, need to finish if they are to play in the elite European Champions Cup next term.
With Italian strugglers Zebre next up at BT Murrayfield on Friday, it is imperative to continue the momentum with a big performance and Brown said: “Getting back into that Champions Cup is massive and so important for the club. It would raise the profile and as a team it’s where we feel we belong.
“We set goals at the start of the season and that was definitely one of the main ones, so there is a massive focus on making sure we do that and get back into the top tier.”
The 25-year-old has experience of a Heineken Cup semi-final in 2012 and after a couple of seasons in the second-tier Challenge Cup – reaching the final last year before a pool stage exit this season – feels it is time to get back among the big boys.
“If you look over the past three years it’s clear we’re going in the right direction,” he continued. “There is a real good atmosphere here at the moment and a sense of expectation about the next couple of years ahead. We’ve shown in parts this season what we can do and we just need to get the consistency up there.
“There’s been a couple of results we’ve been disappointed with but I think we have real potential as a club. This World Cup season has tested our strength in depth but it’s been positive having the young lads coming up and getting some game time. That will put us in good stead for the next couple of seasons.”
Brown has been one of Edinburgh’s most eyecatching performers this season after bouncing back from an injury-ravaged couple of years and must be in with a chance of making the tour to Japan and possibly adding to that solitary cap he won in the historic away victory over Australia almost four years ago.
Brown has experience of playing in Japan at the Junior World Cup in 2011 and, while it is in his thoughts, it is very much at the back of his mind as the all-consuming desire for a strong finish to the domestic season holds sway.
“My main focus is on Edinburgh,” insisted Brown. “There is a big task ahead of us but whatever comes off the back of it will happen. I’m just looking individually to bring my best performance to Edinburgh and we’re really looking for that top six. It [Scotland selection] would be great and I experienced Japan with the under-20s but I can only focus on the next game.” Brown could be directly opposite Leonardo Sarto, the Italy wing who joins Glasgow in the summer, on Friday and that would be a head-to-head he would relish.
“He’s a good, rangy player,” he said. “I was up against him earlier in the season when he’d just come back from the World Cup. He’s tough to put down but we’ll all have to win our individual battles and they have good players through their team. We’ll have to shut them down.”
That game earlier in the season was arguably Edinburgh’s worst of the campaign, as they lost 19-11 in Parma. “Last time we played them was the week they got their international boys back from the World Cup and it obviously boosted them,” recalled Brown. “They can play and throw the ball around so we have to be wary but we will focus on our game. It’s a big opportunity for us.”
Interestingly, Edinburgh have not lost a home game in the Pro12 or Europe to a team other than an Irish province since April 2014. That was to the Cardiff Blues at Meggetland when the BT Murrayfield pitch was being relaid and their unbeaten home run in the league stretches even further back to December 2013 when Glasgow beat them.
With Zebre coming off the back of a 47-0 hammering at Munster there must be confidence of racking up another home win and taking the maximum points on offer.
“We need to be looking to get the most out of every game,” said Brown. “But we need to get the win first. If we can get the bonus point off the back of it then we have to go for it.
“It will be good to be back at home and hopefully we get a good crowd in to enjoy some running rugby.”