Edinburgh Rugby debrief: Reality check, squad depth exposed and the four issues at stake in 1872 Cup

Edinburgh have won admirers for their commitment to attacking rugby this season and it was there to see again on Saturday against Wasps. Unfortunately for the capital club the English visitors just had a little too much up front and won 34-30 in this European Challenge Cup quarter-final tie. So where did it go awry for Mike Blair’s side?

Disappointment for Edinburgh's Chris Dean at full time against Wasps. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Disappointment for Edinburgh's Chris Dean at full time against Wasps. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

Edinburgh not quite there yet

It’s easy to forget that Blair’s Edinburgh project is still in its infancy given the strides made this season under the new coach, particularly at home. But back-to-back defeats at the previously impregnable DAM Health Stadium have been a bit of a reality check as Wasps followed Ulster in winning on the artificial surface.

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Edinburgh have the United Rugby Championship play-offs to look forward to but it’s hard to escape the feeling that the Challenge Cup represented their best hope of a major honour this season.

A home tie against Wasps was never a gimme but it looked a better bet than a URC quarter-final in Ireland or South Africa.

Ultimately, Edinburgh came up short against the Premiership side whose pack power proved too much.

Blair batted away suggestions that Edinburgh are not yet up to winning games at this level but the visitors seemed to have a bit too much nous.

The coach will point to the last-16 win over Bath which was Edinburgh’s first victory in a knockout tie for seven years but he knows they have to be able to win these games on a regular basis to be considered genuine contenders.

Pierre Schoeman, left, started on the bench for Edinburgh. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Injuries left Edinburgh short of game-changers

Blair noted ruefully last week that he could probably name an international XV of injured players and his squad was tested to the limit against Wasps.

The Edinburgh coach is trying to manage his players through the final stages of a long, gruelling season and took the decision to rest Hamish Watson for this one and start with Pierre Schoeman on the bench.

The pair’s omission from the starting XV coupled with the injury-enforced absence of Darcy Graham, James Lang, Ramiro Moyano and Viliame Mata left Edinburgh short of game-changers.

They were also without their first and second choice hookers and the experience of Jamie Ritchie and it showed in the end, particularly when they were chasing the game late on and had limited options left on the bench.

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Four issues at stake on derby day

The European exit means Edinburgh’s next match is the URC clash with Glasgow Warriors on May 21.

The two clubs have matched each other stride for stride this season and both are locked on 50 points in seventh and eighth place in the standings, with Glasgow in the higher position by virtue of having won one more game.

This is the final match of the regular season and Edinburgh have home advantage for a shoot-out with four different issues at stake.

The match at BT Murrayfield will decide who plays who in the last eight of the URC, with the losers heading to Dublin to take on Leinster; who wins the Scottish-Italian Shield; which of the two pro clubs will represent Scotland in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup and who wins the 1872 Cup.

Glasgow are in the box seat to secure the latter after their 30-17 win in the first leg at Scotstoun in March but on this occasion the inter-city prize is likely to take second place to securing a place in the elite European competition.

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