Rob Moffat buoyed as Rory Hutton muscles into contention

ROB Moffat may have finally broken the glass ceiling for the next group of emerging stand-offs by handing Rory Hutton his Magners League debut, but, having done so, the experienced Edinburgh coach could have given himself a real selection headache for the team's Heineken Cup matches over the next fortnight.

Had Edinburgh beaten Bath, as they probably should have done, at the Recreation Ground in early December, they would be staring at a great opportunity to qualify for the Heineken Cup quarter- finals. It is now slim, but the chance is not gone. Edinburgh need to win their remaining games, beating Ulster at Ravenhill for the second time this season and then Stade Francais at Murrayfield, preferably with bonus points. They may not even need Bath to win in Paris this weekend, though that would help.

It is not impossible as Stade have endured a tough time in recent weeks and are looking at a very French solution to the problem of running out of scrum-halves – playing the hooker there this week. Countless French sides have also shown an aversion to playing in Scotland, with Pau, Colomiers, Grenoble, Toulouse, Agen, Clermont Auvergne, Perpignan, Bourgoin, Castres and Biarritz all returning home winless. Stade also lost at Ulster this season for a third time.

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If winning the pool and grasping one of the two best runners-up spots fails to materialise, two wins could still hand Edinburgh a place in the last eight of the Amlin Challenge Cup, and seal European rugby and more income in the latter stages of the season. So these games are important. There were many plus points in Saturday's team performance, notably up front, but after finding a stand-off with the ability to surprise a defence like Cardiff's and energise players around him the way Hutton did, the coach might have been tempted to stick with the same team.

However, he cannot. Hutton was not registered for the Heineken Cup as he was not in the frame for selection at the last stage of squad changes. That has eased Moffat's week somewhat, as the coach has the Scotland stand-off Phil Godman champing at the bit to return after a week off to rest a hip injury.

The Scotland management need Godman to play in the next three weeks and recover the form that pointed to promise in the autumn Tests, and provide competition to Dan Parks.

Moffat said: "Rory did well and we'll have to wait and see what opportunities we can create for him. I played Rory at the weekend because I knew what he could bring and wanted to give him a chance. But we also have Phil and David Blair, good players, and Phil could be lining up for Scotland against France at the start of the Six Nations in four weeks.

"I know he'll be pleased for Rory, because that's the way he is, but he'll also be desperate to play. The team as a whole wasn't playing well before the weekend, which affected Phil. He was getting some pretty poor ball from the forwards, as was Rory for the first half-hour on Saturday, but the team improved, players came in, Ross Rennie and Roddy Grant played well, and Rory took his chance."

It is an intriguing balance of the present versus the future. The present for Scottish rugby is Godman and Parks, the mid-term future – perhaps the 2011 Rugby World Cup – arguably Godman, Ruaridh Jackson and Hutton and, for the long-term, Jackson, Hutton and the likes of Alex Blair, Matt Smith, Duncan Weir, Ross Aitken and Gregor Hunter. For his part, Hutton is ambitious, but unfazed at the prospect of dropping out this week.

"I'm quite happy because Phil (Godman] is a class player and I'm just working my way into the team," he said. "I'd love to play in the Heineken Cup, of course, but I still have a lot to learn and I'll do what I'm told and work on my game. I enjoyed my first game and felt more comfortable as it wore on, and enjoyed the tries.

"There was a bit of broken play for the first one and I had a little sniff, took the chance and went for it. To be able to do that against the calibre of those Cardiff boys gives you confidence and I now know it's there to be done again.

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"It was exciting to do it at this level, and it helps give you the confidence to push on. But there is a lot for me to learn about pro rugby, and now it's up to me to get back to training, knuckle down and be ready for the next opportunity when it comes."

Moffat was at a similar point with Chris Paterson in 1999 when he plucked him from Gala to fill a gap for Glasgow Caledonians when they had an injury crisis at stand-off, against this week's opponents, Ulster, and at Ravenhill. He lost control of his former school student, who joined Edinburgh, and few have been more frustrated at the route away from stand-off Paterson's career took.

He can see similarities between his now captain and the new Hawick talent, but though Hutton could play one of several back-line positions, Moffat is keen to ensure this one remains a stand-off.

"I remember clearly when Chris played in Belfast and I think Rory is at a similar place," he added. "It's just frustrating for me that Rory is 22 and has had so few opportunities because of the Scottish structure or whatever.

"Chris and Rory are both natural rugby players; they want to take people on. I'm not saying they're old-fashioned but they are a bit different. If there is someone in front of them they'll want to beat them rather than run through them, where a lot of players now just want to run into people.

"Rory will attack the gain-line; he's a gutsy boy, which gives the players around him something to support. He is a rugby player and I've seen a lot of guys like him from Hawick, who have been brought up in the game and are very natural – he sees a gap, he reads things well, he has good running skills. He has things he needs to work on and his pass is one of them, and now that has to step up."

Moffat added: "I was pleased with how Rory coped with and reacted to his debut. We worked hard to make sure he went into his debut not worried, not thinking he didn't want to make mistakes, that this would be his only chance; that kind of scenario.

"What he has to do now to get more chances is to train really well. He earned his chance because of what he has been doing in training and we've been watching him closely and putting pressure on him. Don't worry – the chances will come."