Unfortunately, things didn’t click in the second half and they were outmuscled by opponents who scored 24 unanswered points after the break. James Lang knows Edinburgh cannot afford a repeat today against Saracens as they open their Heineken Champions Cup campaign at the Stonex Stadium.
“They are going to be physical up-front, they are going to try to bully us, and they also have flair out wide with some world class backs,” said the Scotland centre. “It is going to be a tough game but I 100 per cent think that if we put our best foot forward we are capable of winning.”
Lang, back in the starting side after Chris Dean suffered a head knock against Munster, was part of the Edinburgh team which beat Saracens last season in the Challenge Cup. He says there was no secret to their success. “The biggest thing was our physicality and we spoke about it this week. If you give Saracens momentum and time on the ball they are going to be deadly so the biggest thing is matching them up front physically and not giving them time on the ball.
“That will take an 80-plus minute performance to make that happen and if we are off for a few minutes, a few plays, they will make us pay so it is about staying on it from minute one. We have focused on ourselves as well because I think our attacking ability is great with the personnel we have and the shape we play. If we can bring that to the StoneX and match them physically it can be a good test.”
Dean was Edinburgh’s creative fulcrum in the first half against Munster and it’s fair to say their performance dipped when he was forced off. Lang offers a different sort of threat - more direct and more physical, according to coach Mike Blair - and that is just what might be required against the three-time European champions.
This is Edinburgh’s first experience of playing in the Champions Cup since 12-team pools were introduced. There are fewer group fixtures and an extra knockout round but the bottom line is that Edinburgh need to finish in the top eight of Pool A to reach the last 16. A ninth- or tenth-place finish would see them drop into the Challenge Cup, while 11th or 12th would end their European interest.
They host Castres next weekend then play reverse fixtures against the same two opponents in January. Last season, five clubs progressed to the last 16 after winning just one of their four pool matches but Blair knows there is no guarantee that will be enough this time.
“My learning from looking at the leagues was….don’t look at the leagues!” said the coach. “Get the first couple of games done and see where everyone’s sitting and have a little look-see before the third game, but more than likely before the fourth game, to see what it’s going to take. Ninth and tenth in each group go into the Challenge Cup so there’s plenty to play for. Do I prefer this format? I’ll tell you at the end of the campaign.”