Tonks targets Heineken tie to refresh his Scotland hopes

Greig Tonks escapes Munster captain Doug Howlett
Greig Tonks escapes Munster captain Doug Howlett
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IT’S been a tough few weeks for Edinburgh Rugby. The team has won just four games in 15 outings in all competitions this season and have now suffered five successive losses. Life isn’t about to get any easier.

Edinburgh are just off the back of playing Leinster in the RaboDirect Pro12 and this afternoon they must line up and face down the might of two-times Heineken winners Munster in the European Cup.

Next week Michael Bradley’s men travel south to play against Saracens. With that sort of workload facing them it’s just possible that the capital club are keeping their collective fingers crossed that they get an easier time of it next season… presuming they are still in the Heineken Cup next season.

“It’s always disappointing when you lose a few on the trot,” says full-back Greig Tonks, one of the few success stories of the current season. “I feel that we are not too far away. We have lost a few games but only by small margins.

“It’s difficult for me to comment on what has changed from last season [when Edinburgh got to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup]. I think that the club started well, picked up a couple of early wins. They had a good start and that gave them confidence. Sure, they had some luck along the way but they played some good rugby too so, yeah, just momentum and confidence.”

Edinburgh would sorely like a helping of each of those two things in today’s game because every other team in Pool 1 has everything to play for, with just three points separating the top three teams. Munster won’t just come looking for the win, the pool is so tight that, if the Irishmen sniff a bonus point is on offer, they will go in for the kill.

“This is our second-last Heineken game and our last one at home and we need to get something to show for our efforts,” says Tonks, who has missed just one game all season and even that was down to a dislocated finger. “I think everyone is keen to give it their best and come away with a win and I don’t think that is beyond us. We lost narrowly to Munster early in the season here at Murrayfield [in the league].”

Tonks arrived in Edinburgh from Northampton Saints after spending time at Leicester Tigers academy and Nottingham Rugby. His very first match for the Saints was against Edinburgh in Europe two years ago when Northampton bounced back to edge the match after conceding three first-half tries, en route to a Dublin final against Leinster. Tonks almost appeared in that pulsating final. He was 24th man for the Midlands club so he warmed up with the rest of the players but never had a chance to halt an astonishing second-half Leinster fightback.

While he has other things on his mind, the South African-born full-back knows that a good showing this afternoon against Munster could ensure a spot in Scott Johnson’s first Scotland squad which is due out on Monday. Was he annoyed to be overlooked for the autumn internationals?

“Yes, I suppose I was a little disappointed,” Tonks concedes. “I played in all the games for Edinburgh at full-back, which is where I am most comfortable so I’d had a good run of games. I was disappointed when selection went against me but that’s the way that Andy Robinson wanted to play the game.

“I haven’t heard from Scott Johnson yet, I don’t think anyone has, so we’ll just have to wait and see what his interpretation is for Scottish rugby. He names the squad next week I think so we’ll just wait and see.”