Edinburgh Rugby must avoid unacceptable outcome but hands are tied with latest injuries as loanee makes move permanent

Capital side remain tantalisingly short of the promised land

Sean Everitt doesn’t give the impression of being unduly concerned about Edinburgh’s league position with three rounds remaining of the United Rugby Championship.

The capital side lie ninth in the standings but the head coach is already talking about having players back from injury for the quarter-finals. If they are to make it to that stage then they need to be safely ensconced inside the top eight by close of play on June 1. That’s when the regular season finishes and the league splits in two, with the bottom eight cast adrift.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A bonus point win over bottom club Zebre at Hive Stadium on Friday evening is an all but essential first step if their top-eight ambitions are to be realised. Last year’s campaign fizzled out meekly, with Mike Blair’s team finishing a lowly 12th. Everitt came in to replace Blair in the summer and has won 10 of 15 URC games. Only Glasgow Warriors and Leinster have won more but Everitt’s side remain tantalisingly short of the promised land.

Given the strength of their squad, a second consecutive season of not making the play-offs would be unacceptable. The way the fixtures work out, Edinburgh should be back inside the top eight by the end of this weekend but tougher tests lie ahead across the final two rounds when they take on Munster at home and Benetton away, and the likelihood is that they will have to beat one of those teams.

Nevertheless, the coach seemed fairly relaxed about what lies ahead and is confident they are moving towards a top-eight finish after back-to-back wins over the Scarlets and Cardiff.

“We know we are getting better,” said Everitt. “Our attack has improved, we’ve scored over 30 points in quite a few of our games over the last several weeks, so we’re happy with our development and growth as far as that is concerned.

“Yes, no bonus point against Cardiff was always going to be disappointing, but it is important for us now to give as many of those injured guys an opportunity to get back on the field, leading into the Munster and Benetton games, because we do have a bye in between with the EPCR cup finals which gives the players an extra week to recover to be ready for Benetton and the quarter-finals.”

Matt Currie during an Edinburgh training session at Hive Stadium. He will play on the wing against Zebre. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)Matt Currie during an Edinburgh training session at Hive Stadium. He will play on the wing against Zebre. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Matt Currie during an Edinburgh training session at Hive Stadium. He will play on the wing against Zebre. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

But first things first and Edinburgh need to win, and win well, against Zebre. They have named a strong side: 13 of the starters are full internationals and it would have been 14 had Emiliano Boffelli not succumbed to a recurrence of the nerve problem in his back that has dogged him in recent weeks. The Argentine played the full 80 minutes in Cardiff but suffered a reaction in training and will sit out the Zebre game.

“I think it’s important for us to rest him this week so that he can make a full recovery to be ready for selection next week,” said Everitt. “The risk in him playing this week would be that he might not be able to take the field against Munster – and for that matter against Benetton.”

Matt Currie will move from centre to wing to replace Boffelli, with Mark Bennett coming into the team at 13 to partner James Lang in midfield. The only other change from Cardiff is the selection of Bill Mata at No 8 in place of Luke Crosbie who drops to the bench.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Edinburgh’s Achilles’ heel this season has been their inability to pick up bonus points. They have won more games than the Stormers, Connacht, Ulster and Benetton but all four are above them. The rival quartet play away this weekend, with Connacht and Benetton in particular facing tricky assignments against Munster and the Sharks, respectively.

By contrast, Edinburgh are at home against the bottom team in the league and although Everitt is not taking Zebre lightly, he is focusing on his own side’s strengths. “Our destiny is still in our own hands,” stressed the coach.

Everitt had hoped Harry Paterson might be available but the Scotland international suffered a setback in training, continuing a run of misfortune the winger/full-back has had with injuries since his impressive Test debut against France in February.

“The young man has had incredibly bad luck over this season, and maybe over the last two years, in fact,” said Everitt. “He did enough in the opportunities he had in September to work his way into the Six Nations group and make his debut, but then picked up a [foot] stress fracture training with Scotland, then had just got over that when he picked up a small [quad] niggle on Monday which was his comeback week. Hopefully he will recover from it very quickly.”

Meanwhile, Edinburgh stand-off Charlie Savala’s move to Northampton Saints has been made permanent following a spell on loan.

Edinburgh: Wes Goosen; Matt Currie, Mark Bennett, James Lang, Duhan van der Merwe; Ben Healy, Ali Price; Pierre Schoeman, Ewan Ashman, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist (capt), Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata. Replacements: Dave Cherry, Boan Venter, Javan Sebastian, Marshall Sykes, Luke Crosbie, Ben Vellacott, Cammy Scott, Chris Dean.

Zebre: Geronimo Prisciantelli; Jacopo Trulla, Fetuli Paea, Enrico Lucchin, Simone Gesi; Giovanni Montemauri, Thomas Dominguez; Muhamed Hasa, Giampietro Ribaldi, Juan Pitinari, Matteo Canali, Andrea Zambonin, Giacomo Ferrari, Taina Fox-Matamua, Giovanni Licata (capt). Replacements: Tommaso Di Bartolomeo, Samuele Taddei, Riccardo Genovese, David Sisi, Bautista Stavile, Gonzalo Garcia, Damiano Mazza, Lorenzo Pani.

Referee: Ben Breakspear (WRU).



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.