The self-enforced vow of silence undertaken by Edinburgh Rugby in the aftermath of yesterday’s news that Alan Solomons has left his post as the club’s head coach was broken briefly yesterday lunchtime with the issue of a press release which named the team to take on Connacht at the Sportsground in Galway this evening.
The good news for Edinburgh fans is that their pack has been bolstered by the return to action of four internationalists in the shape of WP Nel, Ross Ford, Grant Gilchrist and John Hardie.
The bad news is that we are still no closer to knowing why the club’s most influential single employee has left at this precise moment and what the implications of this development are in terms of team morale and their ability to get this season back on track.
Interim head coach Duncan Hodge was quoted in the press release, but the only acknowledgement that this match is being played in rather exceptional circumstances was a throwaway line about it being a “challenging week”.
For a professional sports team which routinely attracts fewer than 3,500 spectators, it is a shockingly blasé approach to public relations. Edinburgh are hoping to persuade their already diminished supporter base to follow them to Myreside in the New Year, but at the moment they are offering very little evidence of being deserving of such loyalty.
“It’s been a challenging week for all involved but we’ve got a massive game we need to win on Friday night. In the short-term our focus has got to be on tomorrow’s match,” said Hodge.
“We’ve got some fresh faces coming in from last week who will lift the team and give us a fresh energy for the game.
“Connacht have talismanic players among them and they’re always a tough team to play, especially at home. They’ll be physical, but we know what to expect. We have prepared well this week and can’t wait to embrace the challenge, start to change our performances and get results for the club.”
Because Edinburgh put forward two players – Damian Hoyland and Solomoni ‘Junior’ Rasolea – to speak to the press on Tuesday (the day before Solomons’ departure), the club is under no obligation in terms of the league rules to organise any more press access this week. That means the latest news we have from inside the camp is that the players are all 100 per cent behind Solomons!
Hodge will apparently be available post-match to any press who attend the game in west Ireland tonight.
Edinburgh go into the match with a new half-back pairing. Jason Tovey comes straight in at stand-off after recovering from a wrist injury which caused him to miss the start of the season, while Sean Kennedy is handed the number nine jersey for the first time in the campaign.
Rasolea comes in at inside centre, which means Chris Dean shifts to outside centre – where he is tasked with neutralising Connacht danger man Bundee Aki – and Mike Allan moves on to the wing.
The problems Edinburgh experienced at scrum time in last week’s defeat away to Munster should be shored up by the recall of Nel. The giant South African’s value to the squad has never been greater, with his two leading understudies at tighthead prop – Simon Berghan and Kevin Bryce – both injured.
Loosehead Alan Dell once again covers tighthead, despite having a torrid time when he came off the bench to cover that side of the scrum last week.
Nick Beavon, a first-year pro who plays predominantly on the tighthead, has been released to play for Melrose in the BT Premiership.
Last year’s Pro12 champions Connacht have also had an inauspicious start to the season and are still without a win, but they will view this game as a golden opportunity to kick-start their season.