Englishman Sean Cox has hit back at criticism there are too many non-Scots at Edinburgh Rugby amid claims homegrown talent is often overlooked.
According to the 28-year-old back-five forward, the club have been attempting to strike a balance based on blending overseas experience with up and comings who will, hopefully, go on to wear the Scottish jersey.
And he insisted that is the only way the club will stand on its own feet and ultimately enjoy success.
The former England Under-21 cap said: “The criticisms don’t hurt because I ignore them. It depends whether you want Edinburgh to be a club in its own right or a feeder for Scotland.
“We are not going to get anywhere in a significant way if we don’t have our own identity.
“That includes bringing in non-Scottish-qualified players.”
Currently, Cox is one of 13 non-Scottish players on the books of an Edinburgh side funded by Murrayfield authorities – WP Nel, Andy Titterrell, John Yapp, Perry Parker, Izak van der Westhuizen, Dimitrai Basilai, Netani Talei, Piers Francis, Richie Rees, Ben Atiga, Mike Penn and Sep Visser are the others.
Cox added: “It is a matter of balance. Last weekend, at Ospreys, we included ten players in the squad who were aged 23 or under. All ten of these players were Scottish qualified. We have been getting the balance right more often than not.”
Critics point to the fact that last weekend’s Six Nations saw Glasgow provide both Scotland stand-offs which means only one of them can get valuable game time each week at club level.
Cox argues that the policy of bringing youngsters along under the wing of more travelled pros will bear fruit to the benefit of both Edinburgh and Scotland.
“Young guys will learn a lot more from this season than last. It is easy when you are winning (Edinburgh reached the European Cup semi-final in 2012) and getting all those plaudits from press and fans.
“But guys will benefit from this experience and come back stronger.
“Look at Glasgow (riding high in the RaboDirect PRO12 league) who for two or three seasons struggled. Now they are flying and reaping the rewards of putting the ground work in to give them the right balance.”
Cox is the most active Edinburgh player this season with 14 league starts while fulfilling the other two fixtures from off the bench in addition to playing in five out of six European ties.
And he is adamant the players are totally behind forwards coach Neil Back, who is the only one of the management team staying on beyond this season with Billy McGinty having already left.
“Neil has got the confidence of the players. He’s brought a lot of things to the table which have benefitted us enormously. For example we have the second-best line-out statistics in the league. I don’t think a lot of people appreciate that. We seem to lose crucial line-outs at crucial times but statistically we are second best in the league.
“He brings a lot to help us improve defence and breakdown work and at this stage it is about putting building blocks in place that will help us next year.”
However, he conceded: “It’s a difficult time with the management situation on-going. As players we can’t do anything about that.
“We can only control what we control to do our job. That said we have still got to stand up and address what we have to address.
“It’s for guys upstairs to sort out the rest.
“Apart from the departure of Billy there’s not been too much of a change so far. Neil has taken over defence along with Michael (head coach Bradley and they are sharing that workload. In terms of attack and forwards coaching, not a lot has changed.
“It’s not an easy time for people at the club, though, and you never want to see anyone lose their job.”
Tomorrow night will see Edinburgh attempt to arrest a run of ten losses in all competitions when they visit Scarlets at Llanelli.
Cox added: “Lots of games have slipped through our fingers. Scarlets at home (28-29) was one of those due to a penalty given away in the last few minutes when we were ahead.
“We approach this game like any other which is that the next game is the most important.
“Scarlets are sitting top half looking to push on to the top four but I expect it to be fairly close. We just need to get a bit of confidence.”