ROSS RENNIE couldn’t wipe the smile off his face at yesterday’s Edinburgh team announcement. After a nightmare year which has seen the flanker sidelined with a dislocated shoulder for two separate six-month stints, he is back in the club’s starting line-up.
The initial injury occurred playing for Scotland against the All Blacks last November, and his first return to club action in May was aborted after only two appearances when he popped the joint again.
Rennie had already endured two injury-ravaged seasons between 2008 and 2010, when a knee problem threatened to bring a premature end to his career. But, now, after two appearances off the bench for Edinburgh against Zebre at the start of the month and Ulster last week, the 27-year-old is determined to put all the hurt and frustration behind him.
He said: “It’s great to be back. It has been quite a long old road. This was by far the hardest one to come back from because it was a re-injury. Having six months out and getting hurt again with the same thing is not much fun. There were some really dark times.
“It is nice to be having that feeling of really caring about the team. You always want them to do well when you are injured, but it doesn’t mean as much when you are not part of it. I’m just determined to enjoy it.
“Playing rugby for a living is a privilege. It’s a great lifestyle, but you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t care about it, and I’m glad I still do. Playing for Edinburgh and winning is what drives everything I do. I’ve been hugely lucky in that I have been supported by Edinburgh and the SRU.”
“I’ve really enjoyed this week because I’ve been running as part of the team and not just switching in as a replacement, so I have been able to learn the patterns of play and the systems, and I’m feeling a lot more confident.”
Edinburgh have also been bolstered by the return of four players who played key roles for Scotland during their Autumn Test series. Alasdair Dickinson, David Denton, Nick De Luca and captain Greig Laidlaw are all playing from the start, with head coach Alan Solomons resisting the temptation to rest them in preparation for a month packed with crucial games.
Solomons said: “Those guys didn’t play against Zebre, so they had a rest before they started the international series. They all play a valuable role, especially Greig in terms of the leadership he brings.
“This is a big month because we have Connacht, we then go into back-to-back Heineken Cup games [against Gloucester], we then have Leinster at home, and then we’ve got the two fixtures against Glasgow. So we’ve got to get our returning internationals back into the swing of things.”
There is no Grant Gilchrist or Ross Ford, however. That pair picked up calf and shoulder injuries respectively playing for Scotland against Australia last week, but Solomons will be hopeful that they will both be back in the frame by next week.
Matt Scott and Tim Visser are longer-term absentees while they recover from a broken hand and a fractured leg.
“Obviously you plan your season and you work out how you want things to go but, once you’ve done that, you focus on the game in hand, and there is flexibility in planning’ said Solomons.
“I’ve got a lot of respect from Connacht. From my time in Ulster I know that they are never easy.”
Edinburgh: 15 G Tonks, 14 D Fife, 13 N De Luca, 12 B Atiga, 11 J Cuthbert, 10 H Leonard, 9 G Laidlaw (capt), 1 A Dickinson, 2 A Lutui, 3 WP Nel, 4 O Atkins, 5 I vd Westhuizen, 6 C Du Preez, 7 R Rennie, 8 D Denton. Subs, 16 J Hilterbrand, 17 W Blaauw, 18 G Cross, 19 S Cox, 20 R Grant, 21 S Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 S Beard, 23 T Brown,
Connacht: 15 R Henshaw, 14 F Carr, 13 E Griffin, 12 D McSharry, 11 M Healy, 10 D Parks, 9 K Marmion, 1 R Loughney, 2 S Henry, 3 N White, 4 M Kearney, 5 C Clarke (capt), 6 A Muldowney, 7 J Heenan, 8 E McKeon. Subs, 16 J Harris-Wright, 17 D Buckley, 18 R Ah You, 19 M Swift, 20 J Muldoon, 21 F Murphy, 22 C Ronaldson, 23 G Duffy
THE SCOTSMAN RUGBY SHOW IN ASSOCIATION WITH GINGER GROUSE