Ospreys v Edinburgh: Grant looks for continuity

Edinburgh captain Roddy Grant. Picture: SNS

Edinburgh captain Roddy Grant. Picture: SNS

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He is still only 26, but Edinburgh’s captain for tonight’s daunting RaboDirect Pro12 encounter at the Ospreys, Roddy Grant, is one of the club’s longest-serving players.

Is that the problem? Is the fact that only four of the squad who will take to the field in the Liberty Stadium have been at the club for more than three years a key reason why Edinburgh have struggled for consistency in the past few years and been left behind by Scottish rivals Glasgow or, in fact, is the free-flowing turnover of personnel a symptom of the team’s struggles on the pitch? Clearly, the fact that Glasgow have retained the core of their squad through several campaigns, adding to it with a handful of talent each season, points to that policy’s effectiveness in building success.

Nick de Luca, Geoff Cross and Tim Visser are the others in the 23-man squad Alan Solomons named for tonight who have clung on through the rollercoaster ride. In fairness, Ross Rennie and Greig Laidlaw are injured and Ross Ford was granted this weekend off as part of the rest protocol for players, but the wealth of new faces that have come and gone – over 40 players have departed Murrayfield since 2010 – underlines the rocky period of transition that has beset the capital.

A core of youngsters has been on the books through the last three years and, now, tasked with putting firmer pegs in the ground, Solomons has brought in some forward strength.

However, for leadership he has turned to Grant, the flame-haired flanker born in Botswana to Scottish parents, who considers himself as Scottish as any of his Edinburgh neighbours and is desperate to rejuvenate his club – and his hopes of a Scotland cap. One of the most efficient defenders in Europe, judging by statistics of the past few seasons, Grant struggled for game-time under Michael Bradley, but when Steve Scott took over last season he secured a new two-year deal. With Rennie injured he has now been given the chance to lead the team forward, at least until Laidlaw returns.

He agreed that the team needs stability and a period of continuity for the squad to really bond, but believes that is down to the players and their ability to perform consistently.

“It is a difficult one,” he said of whether Edinburgh’s form had been affected by the annual changes in personnel.

“If a team struggles you have to look at players and if they struggle they may go, while others will move anyway to new pastures. If you are in a winning environment it is good for everyone, for guys getting kept on, because they are doing their job and for the team.

“I guess that is a reflection on pro sport as guys come and go at this level and squads change, but there is no doubt that the key for us is getting a team and a unit working together and building together, and that is what we are trying to do now.

“Consistency and continuity comes from playing alongside each other regularly, and training well and with a purpose. That is when you form that bond.

“It was great to get the win against the Dragons last week. That was big. We needed it. We had to bounce back after the Munster defeat. It was a box ticked. It was not a polished performance but it was good to get and it is so much better going into a game now having won than lost.

“And if we keep winning and get a winning squad then that bonding we’ve spoken about takes care of itself.”

He knows the size of the challenge they face tonight, particularly after Ospreys recalled all five of their British and Irish Lions to the squad. Four start with Alun Wyn Jones skippering the side and Duncan Jones, Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones returning en masse to the front row, while openside flanker Justin Tipuric is among a replacements group that also includes new Fiji winger Aisea Natoga.

Grant added: “We knew they would start with their big names, but we have no fear about going down there. We are going down to build on last week, win and perform well, as both go hand in hand.

“They have done well in their two away games and this is their first home game, but I much prefer it when they put their best side out. We can go down there and get the win.”

TEAMS

Ospreys

15 R Fussell

14 J Hassler

13 A Bishop

12 A Beck

11 E Walker

10 D Biggar

9 T Tebaldi

1 D Jones

2 R Hibbard

3 A Jones

4 AW Jones (capt)

5 I Evans

6 T Smith

7 S Lewis

8 M Allen

Subs

16 S Baldwin

17 R Bevington

18 J Rees

19 T Ardron

20 J Tipuric

21 T Grabham

22 M Morgan

23 A Natoga

Edinburgh

15 G Tonks

14 N Walker

13 D Fife

12 N de Luca

11 T Visser

10 H Leonard

9 S Kennedy

1 A Dickinson

2 A Lutui

3 G Cross

4 G Gilchrist

5 I van der Westhuizen

6 D Basilaia

7 R Grant (capt)

8 D Denton

Subs

16 J Hilterbrand

17 W Blaauw

18 WP Nel

19 O Atkins

20 H Watson

21 S Hidalgo-Clyne

22 M Tait

23 J Cuthbert

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