Squad depth makes twin targets comfortable for Edinburgh says Duncan Hodge

Charlie Shiel started for Edinburgh for the first time against Agen. Picture: SNS.
Charlie Shiel started for Edinburgh for the first time against Agen. Picture: SNS.
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Edinburgh attack coach Duncan Hodge is confident that his team now have the strength in depth needed to fight on two fronts after they made 12 changes and won convincingly in Agen last week. In recent years both Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh have struggled to be successful in Europe and in the Pro14, but, after the 31-10 Challenge Cup win in France and an encouraging start in the league, Hodge sees good reason to be optimistic about the current campaign.

“We made a lot of changes and the most pleasing thing was that a lot of guys got some game time and we performed well both sides of the ball,” the coach said of a match in which scrum-half Charlie Shiel, right, started for the first time and other fringe players excelled. “There was a lot of good performances from some guys that haven’t had masses of rugby, so that’s great for morale, it’s great for competition in terms of the Scotland guys coming back in, and it’s a fairly healthy camp just now.

“So it’s good. We’re probably ahead of where we were last year. You look at those guys that played - George Taylor was man of the match, Charlie Shiel played, James Johnstone, Nick Haining, Cammy Fenton played… Really good.”

Edinburgh welcome Bordeaux to Murrayfield on Friday in their second Pool Three game and are likely to make wholesale changes again, says Hodge. “We are trying to rotate the squad a bit more,” he added. “It’s probably something we’ve not done that well and perhaps not had the squad to do.

“We’ve got to trust the players. The flipside is that when you select these players they’ve got to stand up and they did that at the weekend. This Friday, whoever’s selected will be no different.”

Bordeaux beat Wasps 40-30 in their first match, and are second in the Top 14 with only two defeats from nine games. But, though expected to be formidable opponents, Hodge believes that facing another French team so soon after Agen will make preparation easier.

“The attack and defensive analysis have been very similar. They’re quite alike. It happened last year – we had Toulon and Montpellier back to back. It was a bit of luck that that’s happened, but yeah, a lot of the messaging is similar.

“They’re a good side, they’re well coached, they have got some good individual players. They’re kind of typically French: they’re a big side, based around set piece and a sort of power game, so in that respect they’re no different to Agen, Montpellier and Toulon.

“We’re fit and in good condition and if we can stick to certain markers, we know we’ll be competitive against French teams. You want to keep the ball in play, keep those guys moving – you can’t have high turnovers which means a set piece. Not that we’re not good against set pieces but you’ve got to think logically about the game and work it back.”