Alan Solomons keeps faith in winning 1872 Cup formula

Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons has shown understandable faith in the players who overpowered Glasgow so impressively on Sunday and tasked them with completing the job of retaining the 1872 Cup.
Edinburgh skipper Mike Coman was praised by coach Alan Solomons for helping his side gain the upper hand in the first leg. Picture: SNSEdinburgh skipper Mike Coman was praised by coach Alan Solomons for helping his side gain the upper hand in the first leg. Picture: SNS
Edinburgh skipper Mike Coman was praised by coach Alan Solomons for helping his side gain the upper hand in the first leg. Picture: SNS

The holders have made two changes – one injury-enforced, the other due to a key man returning to fitness – for Saturday’s return match at Scotstoun as Edinburgh look to defend the 23-11 lead they opened up at BT Murrayfield.

Tom Brown’s willingness to put his body on the line for the cause with the thunderous late tackle he put in on Glasgow’s giant wing Taqele Naiyaravoro resulted in a shoulder injury which keeps him out, while Ben Toolis starts at lock after returning from a three-month injury lay-off from the bench at the weekend.

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Apart from that it’s a case of same again and, while Solomons is confident his team can deliver another quality display and bring the cup back, he cautioned: “That game has come and gone. We had the better of them on the day. This is another day. What happened last week is of no consequence.”

Despite belying the underdogs’ tag and inflicting a chastening defeat on their inter-city rivals, Solomons insists that Glasgow, who have made eight changes, again start as favourites on Saturday. “They are Pro12 champions and playing at home,” reasoned the South African.

Much of the talk emanating from the west this week has been targeting a much-needed league win, with the cup now a bonus, but Solomons said: “Both sides want to win as league points are at stake. The cup is of equal importance. No question about it. It is a great derby. I have been involved in some great derbies around the world and this is right up there.”

Much of the headlines went to man-of-the-match and tryscorer John Hardie but the coach was delighted with the performance of his entire back-row as Edinburgh comprehensively won the battle up front.

He singled out his skipper and blindside Mike Coman for doing a lot of the unseen graft which helped his side gain the upper hand.

“Mike is a workhorse. That’s not to say that others aren’t but he is a player’s player, a very good player and an outstanding captain,” said Solomons.

“A cricket captain is different to a rugby captain. We have discussed the strategy and everyone is all involved. Your 10 is your key playmaker in rugby, like a [gridiron] quarterback, but the captain does play an important role in terms of keeping the side together and Mike has a very good grasp of the game, He grew up in New Zealand, played New Zealand under-20 and that is a good school.”

Along with Hardie and No 8 Cornell du Preez, Solomons agreed that the loose forwards played an important role in the victory.

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“They did play well,” he said. “They complemented each other really well. Cornell has done very well because of the number of games he has had to play. We have looked after him and managed him.”

While much of the focus has been on the potency of the pack, Edinburgh’s backs stood up on Sunday, with Matt Scott also scoring a try and seeming to gel well with his Irish partner Mike Allen in the midfield.

“Matt is a terrific player – I rate him very highly,” said Solomons. “[For Glasgow] Mark Bennett is dangerous and elusive and Peter Horne is a very good player, but I thought our centres showed up very well.”

With Brown injured, Damien Hoyland is given the daunting task of marking Naiyaravoro this week and has a tough act to follow.

Solomons said: “Damien is a good rugby player. He had a long lay-off and now gets an opportunity. He is very excited about it, looking forward to playing in this game very much.

“The bravery [last week] was seen by Tom Brown at the end there with that tackle. That picture told a story for me. His shoulder is not too bad but he could not play. He is not 100 per cent but not a major concern.”

Loosehead Al Dickinson is said to be “making strides” with his calf injury but still has a bit to go with his recovery.

Counterpart Gregor Townsend has freshened his team up in a bid for much-needed improvement this weekend and Solomons noted: “He has obviously beefed up his pack and put in heavier guys. Josh Strauss is an excellent player. Duncan Weir is the number two [stand-off] in Scotland and I thought [scrum-half] Ali Price did really well when he came on. He has rested Tommy Seymour, but Sean Lamont is a big physical man, so he has not lost anything there.”

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Edinburgh have gone 12 years without a win in Glasgow and Solomons accepts that adds a third element of motivation on top of the silverware and league points up for grabs.

“It will be a big achievement,” he said. “That record exists for a reason. They have done exceptionally well at Scotstoun and they are the Pro12 champions. It would be a big achievement to go there and get a win.”