Saturday’s European Challenge Cup clash against Harlequins will be Duncan Hodge’s fourth match in charge of Edinburgh and the biggest test yet of the extent to which things have improved since the club parted company with Alan Solomons.
The capital outfit lost their first match of the Hodge era in Connacht, but given that he had only been at the helm for two days we can’t attach any real significance to this result.
The next two matches brought struggling Italian side Benetton Treviso to Murrayfield, then a trip into the unknown to play Romanian champions Timisoara Saracens. Two bonus point victories were secured, but anything less would have counted as a failure.
This weekend’s match-up is a very different proposition, and scrum-half Sean Kennedy says that it is exactly what the team needs at this point in their evolution under their new head coach.
“It was good to get two convincing wins, but we are not under any illusions about the massive jump we will need to make this week. We don’t know what team they are going to bring up but regardless of who they pick they’ve got a massive squad with real quality in it,” explained the 25-year-old.
“Harlequins have won the Premiership in the past. They’ve not had the best of starts but they’ve beaten teams like Saracens and Northampton, so they’re not a bad team at all.”
“As a player you want to go up against the best, so it will be interesting to see if they bring up a full strength team. They play a pretty expansive style of rugby but if we stick to our systems and execute how we want to defend against them then I think we can put them under real pressure, turn over ball and start attacking them where we want to play.”
“Hodgey has said that this game has come at a really good time for us as a team. If we can get a run going in Europe it breeds confidence and you can take that into the league campaign. We’ve got Zebre and Ulster next in the Pro12, although we won’t be looking too far ahead this week.”
The early indications are that Edinburgh’s players are going to have more of a licence to express themselves under Hodge, but given that the new man in charge was an assistant to Solomons, it stands to reason that he is not inclined to throw the baby out with the bath water as he looks to uncover a winning formula at the club.
“Hodgey has drilled it into us from the start that we’ll not change what we are doing, we’ll just do it slightly better,” explained Kennedy.
“That’s a mentality thing. I think we have at times just gone through the motions, but now there is a bit more emphasis on our decision-making, and that comes down to simple things like somebody not giving a pass when they should have given it.”
“I wouldn’t say [we are playing with more] freedom, we’ve just started to back ourselves a bit more, and have more confidence in our own ability. I think that might come across as taking more risks but I would say they are calculated risks if we are taking any.”
Kennedy’s own season got off to a slow start after he missed the last warm-up match against Newcastle Falcons. He returned to the squad for their defeat in Munster and is now fairly satisfied with how his own form is progressing.
“Overall, I have now had three good lots of game time with Edinburgh. I think the more you play the more confidence you get in yourself and you try things and they start to come off. I just want to keep getting good game time and moving on,” he said.
“At scrum-half there is real competition between myself, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Nathan Fowles, and you have to be alert to stay in the team next week,” he added.