Alan Solomons wants Edinburgh progress in Europe

Hooker Ross Ford is back in the Edinburgh side to face Grenoble in France tonight after being sidelined with a rib injury. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Hooker Ross Ford is back in the Edinburgh side to face Grenoble in France tonight after being sidelined with a rib injury. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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In theory Edinburgh could lose in Grenoble this evening and still progress to the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals but coach Alan Solomons has no interest in the complex series of permutations and prefers to keep things simple.

“I haven’t sat worrying about it,” said Solomons, who has named a team packed with his Scotland big guns ahead of the final Pool 5 clash in the French Alps. “The approach we’ve taken is we’ve got to win this game.

“They’re sitting on 18 points, we’re on 17. It’s a game we need to win. We know it’s going to be tough. We’ve got a lengthy journey out there and they’re a good side who are at home. But I believe we have got a good side as well. We just need to perform well on the day.”

Harlequins, Gloucester and Dragons have all secured their places in the last eight, with four points between the others who have a shot at either winning their pool or being one of the three best runners-up.

Experienced hooker Ross Ford is back from his rib problem and loosehead Alasdair Dickinson returns from his calf injury to reunite the Scotland front row alongside WP Nel.

The first-choice back row of skipper Mike Coman, John Hardie and Cornell du Preez is also reinstated as Solomons makes 12 changes from the youthful side that secured a bonus-point win at home to Agen last week.

In the backs, scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is reunited with first choice stand-off Phil Burleigh, who has recovered from a neck injury and Scotland centre Matt Scott is back alongside Mike Allen, with Greig Tonks at full-back and Damien Hoyland and Will Helu on the wings.

After reaching the final of Europe’s second-tier tournament last season then failing to make the top six of the Guinness Pro12 and missing out on elite Champions Cup rugby, Solomons has made no secret of the fact he would prefer the opposite outcome this term. However, he has also been insistent that success on both fronts is something worth striving for.

“Top six is absolutely critical but one of our aims was to make the quarter-final in the Challenge Cup,” he said. “So we’d like to meet that goal if we can. We can then re-assess. There are two parts to this competition – the round robin then the play-offs. We’ve got to fight like anything to make the play-offs, which is what we’re trying to do.”

Edinburgh enjoyed a fairly comfortable three-try win over Grenoble in the home meeting and despatched the other side in the pool, Agen, both times with minimum fuss. But Solomons accepts that facing the current pool leaders, who sit tenth in the French Top 14, on their own patch will be a different kettle of fish.

He said: “They’re a good attacking side. There are a lot of threats in their team – particularly [South African full-back] Gio Aplon, who I know from Western Province, although he wasn’t playing at the time I coached. But he’s an outstanding player and really dangerous. We are expecting a side that are going to bring it to us in attack. And a French team at home is never easy.

“So yes we are putting out a strong side. Everybody was rested last week in accordance with the [international player management] protocols and they needed a break. Now they are all fit and raring to go.”

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