Interview: Andy Titterrell warns Edinburgh will be hardcore
JUST days after Edinburgh’s pre-season was given a thumping wake-up call by Northampton, former England hooker Andy Titterrell has insisted that the capital men will be a far steelier side than was the case last term.
Titterrell is one of nine summer signings brought in by head coach Michael Bradley to provide just that – a new steel core. He may be 31 and reckoned by some down south to be in the twilight of his career, but the former Sale, Gloucester and Leeds front row was still Edinburgh’s best player in the 21-3 defeat at Newcastle and was one of few who held his own against the Saints in the 54-3 defeat at Murrayfield last week. But there is no messing about with him.
“I didn’t come here to have an easy time towards the end of my career,” he said. “I had an offer from a Premiership club in England, but when I weighed it up with the one from Edinburgh, I came here for one main reason – I still want to win things.
“As a player I’ve always been ambitious, to push myself and take on the best, and I’ve been fortunate to play for England [he also toured with the British and Irish Lions], but I still feel the same now. Had no club come in for me, then it might have been different, maybe time to hang up the boots. But when I looked at the Edinburgh squad, listened to Michael Bradley and Neil Back and got a sense of the set-up here, I was convinced that this was a club going places.”
To go places Edinburgh need strength in depth, the kind of strength that can cover a league season and avoid the runs of defeats that sunk the club in the basement of the RaboDirect PRO12 last season.
Bradley hopes that extra strength will be embodied in the pack by front rows Titterrell, WP Nel and John Yapp, locks Perry Parker and Izak van der Westhuizen, and Georgian flanker Dimitri Basilaia. The latter has shown glimpses, making decent dents in Northampton’s side before being forced off the field in Friday’s first half.
Van der Westhuizen is still to join the fray and Nel, Titterrell and Yapp suffered at the hands of Northampton’s mighty front row on occasions. Perspective is necessary. That was Northampton at full strength two weeks after losing to Italians Zebre but just six days after beating Leinster 43-0, and boasting a pack that precious few will dominate.
Edinburgh were still shuffling their side, before and during the game, trying new blends, some of which might have already been consigned to the failed experiment basket. You don’t really want to do that against an Aviva Premiership contender, but Bradley wanted tough tests and fears exposing players to injury with more than two pre-season friendlies. The real stuff begins on Saturday when Edinburgh face Munster at Murrayfield in the opening PRO12 match. Munster are expected to leave half of their first-choice side at home due to most of the Irish internationalists being given the first couple of weeks off. But are Edinburgh ready?
“Pre-season serves a purpose,” continued Titterrell, “and I am a firm believer that to be the best – and that is what everyone at Edinburgh wants to be in this league – then you have to play against the best. I played against Dylan Hartley, the number one or two hooker in England, and I loved beating him to the next breakdown, making more tackles than him and taking him on because I still believe that I can perform at that level.
“I am training with a hooker [Ross Ford] who has what it takes to be one of the best in the world, and we’re pushing each other, and okay, so we lost heavily in the end to Northampton, but at 12-3 down at half-time and for the first ten minutes of the second half we weren’t far off the pace. The benefits should come in the next few weeks.”
Titterrell likes Bradley’s style, as a coach who wears his heart on his sleeve. He is similar and one can imagine a few rockets flaring over the team’s inability to light up the attack in pre-season. But with the likes of Greig Laidlaw, Tim Visser, Nick de Luca, Matt Scott and Ross Rennie to return, the pace and threat of attack will surely rise.
“It has to this weekend,” added Titterrell. “Thankfully, there are no points in pre-season, but with any game that you play, win, lose or draw, you have to look to progress. If you stand still the rest overtake you. My desire to succeed as an individual and part of Edinburgh is huge. I don’t play in soft packs and this pack will take teams on. Munster at Murrayfield is the perfect first test. You’ve got to meet them head-on and put them to sword. You can’t win one scrum and step off; every single scrum, every contact has to be bang-on, hugely physical. Northampton reminded the boys of that. Same for Cardiff, Ulster and the rest. Give them respect, but go at them; let them know they’re in a battle.”
• A scorebox in yesterday’s Scotsman incorrectly said Saturday’s Gala v Heriot’s match was played at Malleny Park. It was in fact played at Netherdale.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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