Pressure on Solomons as Edinburgh face Scarlets

Edinburgh Rugby's Ross Ford looks ahead to his side's match against the Scarlets tonight, which has plenty riding on it. Picture: SNS

Edinburgh Rugby's Ross Ford looks ahead to his side's match against the Scarlets tonight, which has plenty riding on it. Picture: SNS

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JUST as one swallow does not make a summer, neither should two consecutive defeats constitute a crisis. Having said that, there was something so deeply dispiriting about Edinburgh’s capitulations to Connacht at home a fortnight ago, and the Ospreys away last Sunday afternoon, that tonight’s clash against the Scarlets at BT Murrayfield has now become a huge (potentially season-defining) affair.

Head coach Alan Solomons did a pretty good impression of a man without a serious care in the world at yesterday’s team announcement, but beneath the calm exterior there must be a few butterflies zipping around in the pit of his stomach at the moment. After all, he has made a big play of the fact that, having spent most of last year fighting fires with a team he had inherited just weeks before the campaign kicked off, this incarnation of the capital outfit is entirely a product of his own work.

Where there was chaos, Solomons promised to bring order. Where there was no sense of purpose, he vowed to create a burning desire to improve. And where there was a lack of self belief, he pledged to instil confidence that this Edinburgh side would be as fit, well-drilled and disciplined as any team they come up against.

Unfortunately, the vision does not match reality at the moment, and with every passing week it becomes that little bit harder to believe that the controversial policy of ushering several senior Scotland internationalists through the exit door during the close season, and replacing them with a raft of southern hemisphere recruits of solid rather than spectacular pedigree, has really been in the best interests of Scottish rugby.

Sport is, of course, a marvellously fickle phenomenon, and an improved performance and positive result this evening will go a long way towards making Solomons’s assurances, that he aims to let Scotland’s best young talent learn and blossom in the company of hardened imports, seem a whole lot more palatable.

The South African was understandably keen to stress that it has not been all bad news for Edinburgh this season, with the need to view setbacks within the context in which they happened a key theme of yesterday’s media briefing.

“We had a really good start to the campaign in terms of playing well in our friendlies and against Munster. We dropped off against Connacht yet it was a game we still should have won, and to put that into context Connacht have just beaten Leinster, who won the league last year quite convincingly,” he pointed out.

“We made a lot of individual errors (last week). We had the wind knocked out of our sails in the opening minute when they scored, but we held on in that first half and we managed to get a try to go into the break at 24-10.

“We got a penalty straight after half-time to make it 24-13, but then through individual errors they got a try. Even at 31-13 we were still in it. They kicked to us, Jack [Cuthbert] took it up to just inside our half, we took it through 11 phases until we were 15 metres from their line, but we dropped the ball, they picked it up and scored at the other end.

“Then, shortly after that, when we got down into that right-hand corner, we had a free kick and took a quick tap. We got a penalty and a card because their guy wasn’t ten yards back when he tackled Grayson [Hart]. We then took another quick tap, got a scrum and got a full penalty. Our scrum was going well, they’ve just had a man sin-binned, they must have been on a final warning when he gave the penalty – but we elect to take the tap.

“We lost the ball over the line: they get the scrum, get a penalty and clear their lines. There is no way, when you’ve got a full penalty there, that you take a tap. You just don’t do that. They lost their composure.

If the referee gave a penalty try then I think he would have given a card, and it would have been 36-20, with them down to 13 men with 25 minutes to go. But that was the end of it for us.”

Solomons believes a lack of leadership, particularly in the pack, was crucial to Edinburgh’s unravelling last week. He wants Ross Ford, recalled at hooker after being rested for that match, to take charge against the Scarlets; with Scotland captain Grant Gilchrist ready to make an impact off the bench after ankle surgery in the summer.

Behind the scrum, Sean Kennedy is recalled at scrum-half in place of Sam Hidalgo Clyne and Greig Tonks is listed at full-back.

“I think Sam is an excellent young scrum-half and an excellent prospect, but at this stage, from what I have seen this season, Sean is the all-round guy. I think he’s got a little bit more experience at this point and that helps,” said Solomons. “Tonksy had 20 minutes at the weekend. He has now returned from injury and he needs to build his confidence and the best place for him to do that from is full-back, which is a position he is totally comfortable with.”

Club captain Mike Comon is still one week away after picking up a head knock before last week’s match, while prop Wicus Blaauw is sidelined for three to four months with a torn medial ligament sustained playing for Edinburgh “A” against Glasgow Warriors “A” on Monday night.

Edinburgh

15 G Tonks

14 J Cuthbert

13 S Beard


12 A Strauss

11 T Visser


10 T Heathcote

9 S Kennedy

1 A Dickinson

2 R Ford

3 J Andress

4 A Bresler

5 O Atkins

6 T Leonardi

7 H Watson

8 C Du Preez

Subs

16 J Hilterbrand

17 A Dell

18 W Nel

19 G Gilchrist

20 R Grant

21 S Hidalgo-Clyne

22 P Burleigh

23 N McLennan

Scarlets

15 L Williams

14 H Robinson

13 G Owen

12 S Williams

11 M Tagicakiba

10 R Priestland

9 A Davies

1 R Evans

2 E Phillips

3 R Jones

4 J Ball

5 J Snyman

6 A Shingler

7 J Barclay

8 R McCusker

Subs

16 K Myhill

17 P John

18 S Lee

19 J Davies

20 R Pitman

21 R Williams

22 S Shingler

23 A Warren

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