All the traditional signs of a Scottish spring were in place last week. A brilliant display of yellow daffodils, a thick blanket of snow and the capital’s rugby community wondering how on earth Edinburgh can look so good in Europe while tying their boots properly would constitute progress in the Pro12.
The club beat Quins, twice, and bested Stade Francais in the course of that European campaign but their record of four wins in 17 league outings suggests that Richard Cockerill will have his hands full when the former England hooker takes the reins this summer.
If you are stumped by what causes the chasm between Edinburgh’s league and cup performances you are in good company because so too is Edinburgh winger Damien Hoyland. “Truthfully, no, I have no idea!” he said. “I don’t think it is anything mentally and we are not doing anything differently in training, it just happens to be the cup games that we do better.
“We know we have not been as clinical as we need to be in our recent league games, we’ve been lacking that killer edge but we’ve continued to work hard and believe we will find it again.”
Next Friday’s European Challenge Cup match against Stade Rochelais reverts from Myreside to Murrayfield in the hope of attracting a sizeable crowd, hopefully around the 8,000 mark that attended Edinburgh’s semi-final in the same competition against the Dragons two seasons back.
Edinburgh won that semi only to lose in the final to a physical Gloucester side and they will do well to find a way past Stade Rochelais, who are ripping up the French Top 14 with a brand of fast, dynamic rugby completely at odds with much of the Top 14 stodge. Both teams play with the ball in hand and if the weather is dry then we could be in for a re-run of the Edinburgh/Racing game from their 2011-12 run in the main competition; the best match that almost no-one witnessed since it was never broadcast.
Hoyland and the other outside backs should, at the very least, get plenty of opportunity to show what they can do, both in attack and defence, which will surely come as some relief to the winger who failed to add to his two caps in the Six Nations given the excellence of the men above him in the pecking order.
“I have enjoyed Myreside but not the results,” says Hoyland in reference to Edinburgh’s miserable run of six league defeats, three of which took place at their new home. “The atmosphere is great. The one thing that has been a bit unlucky has been the weather. It doesn’t matter where you are, if the weather is that bad it is hard to get your hands on the ball and express yourself.
“It has been quite a consistent season for me, although results haven’t gone our way – as an individual I have improved on a lot of things. Coming in to the start of the season, my defence was massive work-on, and I’ve also been working really hard on my passing and kicking and feel I have progressed a lot, so I’ve maybe not scored as many tries but I feel way more involved than I have done. I feel like my confidence is there to be one of the the guys to put my hand up and get the ball in hand and do well.
“So, I’m quite happy with where my rugby is and I just want to push on. Next week is a massive opportunity to do that against a top French side.”