Roddy Grant will fight to end as Edinburgh chase an improbable dream

Roddy Grant, pictured left. Picture: PA
Roddy Grant, pictured left. Picture: PA
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RODDY GRANT captained Edinburgh two years ago, but this season he has found game time hard to come by, with Ross Rennie starting the campaign at the top of the pecking order for open-side flankers at the club.

Back in October, the 25-year-old even resorted to running out for Melrose in the British and Irish Cup, earning praise from coach Craig Chalmers for the enthusiasm he exhibited and the positive impact he had on the team in the match against Llandovery. This, despite the fact that Grant is a player with very close links to Melrose’s near neighbours and fierce rivals, Gala. His grandfather, the legendary international referee Bob Burrell, was a proud supporter of the maroons until his death last year.

“Yeah, he would have been turning in his grave at the thought of me playing for Melrose,” chuckles Grant. “But that’s life as a professional, I suppose. I really enjoyed it. I hadn’t played a game in two or three weeks, so I was really keen to get a good runaround.”

It says a lot about Grant and his character that he was able to slip into the Melrose side so easily. His physique and fitness levels may be typical of a modern professional, but there is a lot about him that is reminiscent of the old fashioned open-side flanker of Scottish folklore. He is the kind of guy who would play rugby anywhere and for anyone – because he thrives on the competition. At 5ft 11ins, he’s pretty short for a forward, but what he lacks in height he makes up for with heart. He might be the perfect gentleman off the field, but on the park he is a feisty red-head – who will fight to the very end, no matter what the circumstances.

Grant may only be in the team for this evening’s Heineken Cup clash with Racing Metro 92 because Rennie dislocated his shoulder playing for Scotland against the All Blacks, but coach Michael Bradley will have no concerns about the willingness of his number seven to set the right sort of tone in a match in which his team are chasing a virtually impossible dream.

“We have regrets about the way we have performed in the Heineken Cup so far this season, and we don’t want any more reasons to look back and feel ashamed of ourselves,” says Grant, referring to Edinburgh’s humiliating losses to Saracens and Munster in the first two rounds.

“You don’t give up on something just because it has not gone the way you want. I think Edinburgh did an awful lot of good for Scottish rugby in the way we performed last year and it is vital that we don’t undo all that work by rolling over this year. If we don’t qualify from this group we at least want to be able to hold our heads up at the end and be able to say we were genuine contenders.”

After a bright start to the season, the capital outfit suffered a shocking loss of form which saw them lose seven games on the bounce, including those two European whitewashes. But recent wins in the Rabo Pro12 over the Ospreys and Connacht offer hope that some sort of credibility can be salvaged from this season. “Being part of a team which lost like that is just horrendous. It is embarrassing that we were seen all over Europe as soft touches. But it didn’t affect our unity as a squad. We remained really tight throughout that period, which shows what this team is all about,’ says Grant.

“I have been in teams in the past – not necessarily at Edinburgh – where players start to niggle at each other when things go wrong. With this group we have been pretty honest with ourselves and each other, but we didn’t start getting at each other – and the belief was always there that we could get ourselves out of that rut. Now it is vital for the club that we keep moving forward. Nobody likes being in a run of losses and we are not going to go back there now. We have turned a corner.

“Basically, we’ve got to win this weekend, then win the return match next weekend, and see where that leaves us.”