Nick De Luca will remain an integral part of the Edinburgh Rugby set up for the remainder of the season regardless of whether his 13-week ban for tip-tackling an opponent is successfully appealed.
That’s the view of Ben Atiga, the Scotland internationalist’s centre partner during last week’s 7-24 defeat at Ospreys.
While clearly hoping De Luca appeals in the face of what is widely regarded as a punishment inconsistent with tariffs in other higher profiles, Atiga broke off preparations for tonight’s Rabo Direct Pro 12 clash at Scarlets to say: “I haven’t seen the footage properly, but speaking to Nick after the game he told me there was no malice.”
De Luca was sent off with four minutes remaining and All Black Atiga added: “Obviously there was some frustration. At the time we were down and things had started going south for us. But there was definitely no malice or I’m pretty sure he could have done a lot more damage. Nick pulled out of the tackle.
“We were all quite frustrated and there probably wasn’t any need for that. I’m glad he [De Luca] pulled out. At the end of the day, he didn’t want to hurt him.”
Nevertheless, Atiga admitted physical intimidation was part of a general approach.
“Personally I think refs have to let guys play rugby. Fans want to see us have a really good go at each other.
“Guys don’t want to go out and end someone’s career or break someone’s neck. You do want to hurt him, though. You do want to physically dominate your opponent, but, 90 per cent of the time, guys don’t want to go out and end someone’s career or break someone’s neck.
“It isn’t a case of ‘I want to take this guy out of the game’, although there are times you can’t control the other player’s momentum.
“Adrenalin gets you. Your heart is pumping and sometimes you are not thinking straight. That’s rugby. But player safety is very important.”
Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley is awaiting a written judgment before deciding whether to appeal.
Atiga added: “Nick is an integral part of the team, a leader. His voice means a lot to this side and he wants to be playing any role he can regardless.
“He brings a lot of voice to the team and a lot of good ideas. One way or another he is always going to be with us.”
Meanwhile, the Edinburgh team hoping to end a run of ten defeats is:
Edinburgh: Tonks, Fife, Cairns, Atiga, Jones, Leonard, Rees, Jacobsen, Lawrie, Nel, Parker, Cox, captain, McInally, Denton, Watson. Subs: Titterrell, Yapp, Allan, McAlpine, Talei, Leck, Francis, Brown.