Heineken Cup: Scotland’s losses can be Edinburgh’s gain
Forwards coach Smith upbeat for clash with mighty Toulouse
SCOTLAND rugby supporters might take some convincing that positives can be grasped from a dire RBS Six Nations Championship, but Edinburgh’s astute forwards coach Tom Smith believes that the recent exposure to defeat could help his side against Toulouse on Saturday.
Edinburgh face the four-times champions of Europe in Scotland’s first home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup, and its rarity value has been recognised by more than 31,000 ticket buyers already.
Smith has the task, alongside head coach Michael Bradley and Billy McGinty, the defence chief, of shackling a Toulouse side that currently lead the French Top 14, that boasts half of the French national squad, has the confidence from frequent Heineken Cup final appearances and a helpful boot up the derriere in the shape of defeats to Harlequins and Gloucester that almost knocked them out at the pool stage.
However, having welcomed back his front row, top back rows David Denton and Ross Rennie, half-backs Mike Blair and Greig Laidlaw, promising new centre Matt Scott, Nick de Luca and Lee Jones from Scotland duty, the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions prop believes Edinburgh will be stronger now than when they qualified for the last eight in January.
“It’s not just the experience of international rugby,” he said, “but the quality of the player who gets there, and the more players that show the quality to get to that level the better for us. I think that disappointment, or success, at that level, is irrelevant to us. We are a separate entity and the players switch off from Scotland when they come to us, but they bring more back from the experience, from the intensity of training and games to the greater pressure on skills, decision-making and fitness.
“Someone the other day asked me: ‘What’s up with Scottish rugby?’ I said: ‘Look, it’s not that bad.’ We have talented players, but I think sometimes guys go through the big rugby schools in Scotland winning too easily.
“They almost don’t learn how to be good. When you play for one of the top schools here you win most, maybe all of your matches, some by a mile, when actually learning how to come back from a defeat, how to fight, how to dig in and how to be really good at what you do is not the worst thing in the world. Our guys have been learning tough lessons in the Six Nations and more players have been exposed to what it takes to win at that level, and that can pay dividends for us, and for Scotland, moving forward.”
They have an empathetic coach in Smith, as he endured the good and bad as a Scotland player and captain, but, refreshingly, he has never grown to accept defeat or taken refuge in the lack of resources argument. That comes through when asked what he thought of Edinburgh letting slip a commanding lead before edging past the Scarlets last week, in their dress rehearsal for Saturday, and when asked whether two sides famed for try-scoring will produce an exhilarating contest.
“These guys [internationalists] have had a tough time of it and I don’t think anybody enjoys being part of a team that’s not winning, and I think that came out on Friday night [against Scarlets]. But you hear people question the manner of our victory. C’mon. Deal with it. I don’t care if we flop over in the last minute from one yard to win the Toulouse match; it’s about winning.
“People tell you it’s all about winning and then you win and people say ‘ah, it’s about the manner of the win’. Maybe we need to change perceptions. If winning is important, and of course it is, then we don’t have to get hung up about how we win. We don’t have to score nice tries so long as we score tries.
“I don’t think either team is going to go out there on Saturday with the attitude ‘we’re going to play expansive rugby’. Both of us will be looking to play intelligent rugby. If we spot an opportunity to throw it wide, we’ll throw it wide, but equally if we feel the right thing to do is to stick it up the jumper and truck it up then that’s what we’ll do, or if kicking it is where the best opportunity lies, we’ll take that too.
“It’s game management, playing intelligently, and I’d rather play intelligently than attractively, and win.”
Smith added: “We know it’s a big job against Toulouse, but everyone’s relishing it. Yeah, you look at Toulouse and most seasons they’re in the business end of this competition, and that’s great for them, but this is somewhere that we’re enjoying being and we want to stay there. We don’t want this to be one taste and that’s it; we want a bit more.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west