Richard Cockerill’s team are back up to second in Conference B after last week’s five-try win over the Dragons but, as they prepare to face the Blues, they have been hampered by continuing uncertainty over which players may be released by Scotland, who face France in Paris in the first Six Nations game of the afternoon, ahead of Wales v England.
“There are still question marks over who, if any, we’ll get back,” assistant coach Duncan Hodge said yesterday. “The guys who’ve been on the fringes – Henry Pyrgos, Chris Dean, Darcy Graham, James Johnstone, Luke Crosbie – those are the guys who haven’t featured for Scotland but, in terms of injuries for Scotland, could feature. So they’re the ones who are up in the air.
“I think [we will know] by the end of tomorrow night. I think Scotland are training tomorrow, so they’ll probably have finished training tomorrow and anyone that isn’t required by them will then get handed back. The other issue is that they’re playing on Saturday, as are we, and they probably don’t just take 23 players. They’ll probably take a couple of spares as well.”
Whoever they get back, the encouraging thing for Edinburgh is that they had a depleted squad last week but still beat the Dragons 34-17, running in 20 unanswered second-half points after going in at the break three points behind. “We weren’t unduly worried,” Hodge continued.
“We gave them a soft score, but in general terms we had some really good stuff in the first half. We felt the score maybe shouldn’t have been as it was.
“And then, in the second half, we played much better. There was definitely some areas to tighten up from the first half and we sorted that out. We were a bit rusty, but overall if you’d said we would score 34, 35 points against Dragons... because they’re a much better team than they were. They didn’t have masses off the bench, but they’re an improved side and we were missing a lot of guys. We were happy.”
However, the Blues, still on the fringes of the play-off fight in Conference A, are tougher opponents, as Hodge acknowledged. “Cardiff are a good side – they’ve got some really good attackers. They’re quite quirky in defence: they put a lot of pressure on the ball.”
Meanwhile, backs Jason Baggott and George Taylor and prop Jack Stanley have become the latest players to commit their future to Edinburgh. All three have signed one-year deals, Stanley’s as a partnership with Watsonians, who will be in the Super 6 next season.
“We’re really happy that all three boys have extended their stay at the club,” Cockerill said. “Both George and Jason have come through the Fosroc Scottish Rugby Academy to make their debut for the club, whilst Jack has developed really well since arriving in the summer. They all work tirelessly every day in training and will no doubt continue that work ethic into next season.”