DCSIMG

Harry Leonard to start for Edinburgh at Meggetland

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AS EDINBURGH prepare to welcome Ospreys to the new venue of Meggetland tonight, head coach Alan Solomons reasserted his determination to turn the capital club into a strong Scottish set-up to which youngsters across the south and east of the country aspire.

Switched due to the ravaging of the Murrayfield pitch by nematode worms, the game will be played in front of a 3,000-strong support at the home of

Boroughmuir, adding to the celebratory feel around a club heading back to the Premiership of Scottish rugby this summer.

What many would like to see is more of those young talents involved in the club game heading into the professional ranks and, after asking new signing from New Zealand Mike Coman to continue as team captain, Solomons explained how he is working to create a strong academy full of the best young talent in Edinburgh and the Borders.

“What we have done in recent weeks [with the new signings] is strengthen the squad, and I think we’ve got a lot more strength in depth in our squad now,” he said. “Earlier on we would have struggled to cope over this period. But what’s also great is that we have been able to give guys like George Turner, Ewan McQuillin and Alex Allan the opportunity to be part of the 23. The big search for us now relates to the academy because if we want to build a sustainable club we have to build it through our youth. In December, I formed a sub-committee of myself, Stevie Scott [forwards coach] and Bryan Easson, who is our EDP manager, and we have now completed the identification process completely.

“The recruitment has to go through the SRU protocols and we are ready for when that takes place, but we have formulated all our plans for integration of those players into the senior squad and so we’re good to go and are looking forward to seeing those youngsters come through into our set-up.

“Having said that, the only way these youngsters will develop is by coming into a good, experienced team. Their opportunities will come during international windows when the senior players are away and they need to come into a good side.

“We are trying to fulfil that strategy of building a club as opposed to a team, and we are doing that through the academy and making sure we have a team that can aid their development rather than stunt their growth. I can’t say how many young players we are signing because we have to go through SRU protocols, but we will not take any player into the academy who we don’t think will have a prospect of making it. Not everybody makes it but we are not taking anyone in for the sake of filling numbers. This is exactly what I did with Ulster and the [Southern] Kings and, on both occasions, it was successful.”

Clearly, Ulster have motored on from the foundations Solomons put in place between 2001 and 2004, while the Kings will spend this year out of the Super 15 after suffering relegation but with hopes of returning swiftly and opening up Super Rugby to a vast tranche of the south-east of South Africa. Solomons, however, is also acutely aware of the pressing need to win games. He was set the task of lifting Edinburgh out of the basement of the RaboDirect PRO12 and has now found that the target has been moved to a top-six finish, to ensure qualification for the new European Cup which noises emanating from France and Wales suggest is moving closer to a solution.

Ross Ford’s fall from favour with the Scotland team will benefit Edinburgh as he starts tonight, alongside tighthead prop Geoff Cross with Euan Murray now in line for a return from injury against France next weekend.

After successive defeats to Connacht and Scarlets away from home, Edinburgh need a victory tonight to get back on track. They are currently eighth and eight points off last week’s conquerors Scarlets in sixth spot – Scarlets are at home to Munster tomorrow – but have a game in hand, while the Ospreys are just holding on to fourth spot by three points from Glasgow, who have two games in hand.

Solomons has restored former Boroughmuir stand-off Harry Leonard to the side for tonight, with Carl Bezuidenhout moving to full-back and Jack Cuthbert to the wing. Centre Sam Beard steps up after injuries ruled out Tom Brown (thigh) and Nick De Luca (head knock). Freed by Scotland, Ford and Cross take over from James Hilterbrand and Willem Nel respectively.

Scrum-half Sean Kennedy is also back from his loan at London Irish, and replaces the injured Sam Hidalgo-Clyne on the bench. The Ospreys come north after defeat to Munster which coach Steve Tandy says has to be the last loss of the season or their play-off hopes are over. They have Wales stand-off Dan Biggar back alongside Italian scrum-half Tito Tebaldi, with caps Duncan Jones, James King and Justin Tipuric providing a strong spine to the pack.

“The general mood after Munster was of frustration and disappointment,” said Tandy. “When you are playing a good team like Munster you can’t afford to turn the ball over like we did and not expect to get punished. It’s a very quick turnaround for us, going Friday to Sunday, which obviously limits how much we can do in terms of working on where we let ourselves down against Munster. However, the boys have shown the right attitude and as coaches we’ve been trying to drive home the need for accuracy, attention to detail, and patience and reinforcing that we have to stay composed and not allow ourselves to get carried away. The play-offs are still very much on for us but we have to get it right on and off the pitch for each of our remaining fixtures.”

There is a similar feeling in the home camp, where Solomons acknowledges that a top-six place would start to disappear over the horizon if his side cannot come together well tonight.

He said: “It’s important for the club, particularly as we’re playing at home, to deliver a good performance that will

give us the opportunity to get the result.”

Edinburgh

15 C Bezuidenhout

14 D Fife

13 S Beard

12 A Strauss

11 J Cuthbert

10 H Leonard

9 G Hart

1 W Blaauw

2 R Ford

3 G Cross

4 G Gilchrist

5 I vd Westhuizen

6 M Coman (capt)

7 R Grant

8 C Du Preez

Subs

16 J Hilterbrand

17 A Allan

18 W Nel

19 O Atkins

20 T Leonardi

21 S Kennedy

22 B Atiga

23 J Dominguez

Ospreys

15 R Fussell

14 J Hassler

13 J Spratt (capt)

12 A Beck

11 H Dirksen

10 D Biggar

9 T Tebaldi

1 D Jones

2 S Baldwin

3 D Suter

4 T Ardron

5 J King

6 S Lewis

7 J Tipuric

8 J Bearman

Subs

16 M Dwyer

17 M Thomas

18 J Rees

19 D Baker

20 R Jones

21 T Habberfield

22 S Davies

23 A Natoga

 

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