Heineken Cup: Hunter thrown in at deep end as Greig Laidlaw fails to recover
EDINBURGH will go into tomorrow’s win-or-bust encounter against Munster without talismanic captain Greig Laidlaw. The stand-off has failed to recover from a shoulder injury and his role as director of operations has been taken over by rookie Gregor Hunter, who will make his Heineken Cup debut.
Edinburgh recruited extensively during the summer, but head coach Michael Bradley did not bring in an established stand-off as cover for Laidlaw – and we will find out on Sunday whether this was a costly misjudgement.
With Harry Leonard unavailable due to a groin strain, Bradley is throwing in at the deep end a 21-year-old who is yet to take the field in a competitive match for the capital side this season.
“Gregor played in two of our pre-season friendlies and subbed in our first two league games before getting injured, so he went out of the reckoning for a while, but he is back now. He has a bit of experience from last year, and he was in New Zealand for 12 weeks during the summer, so we are looking forward to seeing how he goes,” said the coach.
“He is a good lad and he is quite confident in terms of his own skill levels, so I don’t really have any fears about his performance on Sunday.”
Bradley tried to dispel concerns that Laidlaw might face a lengthy lay-off. When asked if his involvement in Scotland’s Autumn Test series might be in doubt, he said: “If he was close enough to this match, I don’t think so. We certainly will be hopeful that he will be back next week.”
However, a few other statements made by the Irishman were less promising. “It’s a week-by-week sort of injury,” he said. “It’s hard to pinpoint it in terms of time. It’s not like a hamstring grade one which would be two weeks. Greig has had a bit of damage in and around the bone and structure and you have to make sure it settles first before you put any pressure on it.
“He is a player we would look to wait and give as much time as possible to see if he will be okay, but he didn’t make it and we can’t force that sort of injury. We’ll have to just wait and see now what happens in the next few weeks with him.”
Elsewhere in the backline, former All Black Ben Atiga has been parachuted back into the side at inside centre in place of Matt Scott, and Greig Tonks gets the nod ahead of Tom Brown at full-back.
In the pack, tight-head prop Geoff Cross is recalled with Willem Nel dropping to the bench, and coach Michael Bradley has opted for a heavyweight back row of Dave Denton at blind-side flanker, Netani Talei at number eight and Stuart McInally as the open-side flanker, while Ross Rennie drops out of the squad altogether. “Ross had a fine game last week so it is not down to performance. It is just down to tactically where we see our opportunity in the match,” insisted Bradley.
“We recognise where Munster’s strength is and we wanted to beef up the pack as much as we could, and one of the ways of doing that is to put a fairly lumpy back row out there. It is something of a gamble, but we haven’t beaten Munster at Thomond Park in a very long time so we might as well roll the dice on that one,” he added.
Edinburgh players have spoken this week about the need for an open and frank discussion about what went wrong during their humiliating 45-0 hammering by Saracens last Saturday, before they were able to think about moving forward again.
Bradley agrees that the time for naval gazing has now passed – and he is viewing a trip to Thomond Park as the ideal antidote to last weekend’s crushing blow.
“The boys themselves were very disheartened and disappointed with the performance in front of their own fans, but we can’t dwell on that forever because we have a big game on Sunday.
“Munster lost their first match as well but they got an away bonus point which could be very valuable. It is a massive game for us, so we can’t spend all our energy looking backwards. We have to redirect it in the way of Thomond,’ he said.
“It’s good that Munster have decided to move away from nine or ten-man rugby, because the game has moved on. They are now playing an exciting style which will be good for them and good for their fans, especially when added to their natural aggression and power up front. But they are probably less experienced in playing that sort of style than Edinburgh, so it gives us an opportunity.
“It will be a different type of game than we are used to seeing between Edinburgh and Munster. It should be a cracking match – open and free-flowing.
“A lot of sides go there with the intention of hanging on and scraping a bonus point and that is just the wrong psyche to take there. You have to take Munster on, otherwise you are just wasting your time.
“Ulster showed the way last year in the quarter-final by taking it to Munster in the first 20 minutes, holding onto the ball and being quite physical. That forced Munster to up the pace because they wanted to get the ball and they ended up giving away three or four penalties which Ruan Pienaar knocked over.
“That is the way we want to start the game, and the position we want to be in after 20 minutes. We have to go for it.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West