Edinburgh acting head coach Duncan Hodge admitted it had been a “difficult” couple of weeks for stand-off Duncan Weir, who has been dropped for this evening’s clash with Treviso in Italy.
Jason Tovey returns to the No 10 jersey in Hodge’s only change from last Friday’s home loss to Connacht, in which Weir, inset, looked well below his best as Edinburgh’s troubled season hit another painful bump on the road.
Weir was switched from Glasgow last summer in a bid to get him more game time after falling into the shadow of Warriors and Scotland first-choice pivot Finn Russell but the move to the capital has not proved a fruitful one thus far, with a broken jaw early in the season setting the tone for a challenging campaign.
Welshman Tovey was preferred to Weir in Edinburgh’s biggest game of the season – the European Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat by La Rochelle – but the Scot returned last week only to post an error-strewn display against the champions.
“It has been difficult,” said Hodge. “He’d be the first to admit that knowing Duncan well as I do. Areas of game weren’t where he wants them to be. There are certain positions – 2, 9, 10 – where there is no hiding place. You’ve got to step up and run the game. It’s not been an easy time.”
That loss to Connacht was a dispiriting eighth in a row and Hodge conceded morale has taken a hit.
“Just little things set you off track,” said Hodge, who will revert to backs coach when Richard Cockerill comes in as boss at the end of the season.
“The first half last week was just bizarre. In the first 20 minutes we had 81 per cent possession but were 6-0 down. They were in our half four times and scored 16 points. It rattles them.
“On the night they scored three tries to one but still lost the game. Some things are a bit hard to work out.
“There were errors, every-one can see that, dropped balls. Hamish [Watson] dropped a couple. You don’t see that from him, when did that ever happen?
“Duncan missing a kick that he normally doesn’t miss. Some things you can’t equate for but they all add up on the night.”
A match against the bottom side in the league would seem like the ideal opportunity to break that long losing streak which has left them without a single Guinness Pro12 win in 2017 so far. However, the way things have been going, nothing can be taken for granted at present and Hodge is adamant Edinburgh can’t afford the kind of slow start which has left them with too much to do in recent months.
“We need to start the game well and gain control in the opening exchanges,” said Hodge.
“Treviso have proven many times this season that they are a tough and well-drilled outfit. They’ll battle hard to get a foothold early in the game so we need to match them by getting off the mark faster than we did against Connacht.
“It tends to be with Treviso that you’ve got to start well. We need to get a foothold in the game early and impose ourselves on the game. We’ve not thought any further than this week. It’s important to beat the teams around us obviously.
“We see this game as a big chance to put right our wrongs of recent weeks.”
With exit from Europe, and the Pro12 campaign stuck in demoralising slump, the season has fizzled out, although having that second 1872 Cup clash with Glasgow at Scotstoun on the last weekend at least gives something to aim for. Edinburgh trail 25-12 on aggregate and Glasgow are effectively out of the play-off hunt but it should still be a spicy derby encounter.
“It will be a huge game and it will be on us before we know it,” said Hodge. “But this is a big game this week and another in a couple of weeks.”