WHEn Alan Solomons continually bemoaned a lack of conditioning within the Edinburgh squad during the final two months of last season, you couldn’t help but wonder about the impact on team morale. The South African coach was attempting to explain his team’s deficiencies during an abysmal run of five straight defeats, but his words were hardly designed to inspire an exhausted group of players to raise themselves for one final tilt at respectability.
At least Solomons did not blame his team’s plight on a lack of ability, even if the way he overlooked or discarded several players who had previously been central figures at Edinburgh suggested that the 64-year-old wasn’t impressed with the raw materials he discovered when arriving in the Scottish capital just two weeks before the start of the season.
He did promise that things would be better after the summer, once the squad had gone through a full pre-season programme under his tutelage.
We will get an early indication of what has been achieved during these last few months when Edinburgh play their first pre-season friendly against Leicester Tigers at the Greenyards on Saturday.
According to Ross Ford, the key feature of this season’s build-up has been the way in which fitness and strength work has been specifically tailored towards how the coach wants the team to play.
“I think we were conditioned last year – just not for the game-plan that Alan wanted. We want to be a really physical team and that does take a toll on you over the course of a full season. You could see at the end of the campaign that our performances dropped off considerably, and that was just down to us not being used to what was being demanded of us week in and week out. We are conditioned in a different way now,” explained the hooker, who was speaking at the launch of Edinburgh’s new home and away strips.
“Every pre-season is hard but this one was hard in a different way. There was a lot of wrestling and strong-man stuff – the things Alan likes to call functional fitness,” he continued.
“Fortunately I missed the majority of it with being away on tour with Scotland and then being on holiday, but when I came back it was definitely the toughest pre-season I have been through.
“The boys looked in really good shape when I joined up with them and trying to catch up with them during my first week back was tough. Then they got a week off and I was beasted all week and that evened things up a bit. I feel in pretty good shape now.”
The concern is that a preoccupation with winning the physical battle may see Edinburgh become rather one dimensional and boring to watch, but Ford insists that is not the intention.
“It’s just part of the game – it’s not the whole thing. We got a few things squared away last season in terms of our understanding of what we are trying to do and now it is about developing things this year. So we’re working hard on improving our attacking game and we’re looking forward to getting that under way on Saturday.
“There’s only so much pre-season training you can do before, well, you get bored of it. So, to have something to focus on at the weekend has given this week a real impetus.”
Greig Tonks is expected to wear the No 10 jersey ahead of Tom Heathcote. Tonks initially made his mark at Edinburgh as a full-back, but is now focusing all his energy on playing stand-off.
“I played there a bit last season and enjoyed it so, after talking with Alan about it a fair bit, we decided that it would be good for me and good for Edinburgh if I made the switch on a more permanent basis,” he explained.