COMING off the back of two solid wins over London Welsh in the European Challenge Cup, Edinburgh are entitled to approach this evening’s home encounter against Guinness Pro12 basement dwellers Treviso with a degree of confidence.
That is fine with Jack Cuthbert, who has no issue with self-belief in the teams he plays for – but the full-back is also adamant that there can be no room for complacency against a side which has managed only a solitary draw from 13 competitive matches so far this season.
Cuthbert warned: “It adds a different kind of pressure, especially with the way Treviso results have gone as of late. They have suffered some heavy defeats and, from the experiences I have had over the years, I know that there is nothing worse than a wounded animal.
“They are going to come here with a real focus on getting that win. I think it will have been one of the away games they will have targeted, and I have no doubt that they will be desperate to steal a result.
“From a team point of view, we are really just focusing on ourselves. We owe ourselves a decent performance, and we really want to show our supporters what we can do.
“Everyone has been talking about European form, but from our point of view it is about performing well week-in and week-out, no matter what competition you are in.”
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He added: “Reflecting on last season, we had some great home wins against huge European sides like Munster and Perpignan, and then slipped up against the teams you would really expect us to get a win over – including the Italian teams. We need to think less about who is in front of us and more about what we can bring to it to make sure we can get that momentum of wins.”
Edinburgh have been boosted this week by the return to fitness of Dave Denton, who will be determined to make a big impact at number eight after an injury-ravaged campaign. Meanwhile, Alasdair Dickinson will add some valuable experience to the front-row after recovering from an Achilles problem.
On the down side, Ross Ford is still missing with the back problem which has bothered him since the November Test series, and Matt Scott’s journey back to full fitness after shoulder surgery during the summer has been put on hold by a hip flexor injury suffered last Sunday – although the good news for player, club and country is that the hapless centre is expected to be fit again next weekend and should be able to play a full part in the festive 1872 Cup series against Glasgow Warriors.
Head coach Alan Solomons said: “The medical staff feel Matt would be at risk of exacerbating the injury if he plays and end up being out for three to four weeks and that would be crazy.
“If we don’t play him he will be available next week. It’s a great pity because he is starting to get a run of games and hit his straps, but it is better to follow the medical advice.
“Ross has got a back problem and we’ve got to wait until he feels comfortable. I’m sure that he is going to be alright given a period of rest, but how long that is remains to be determined.”
With grim weather predicted for tonight, we should not hold out much hope of a festival of running rugby. The ball is far more likely to be belted into the blustery Roseburn sky or sent skidding across the moist turf into the corners at Murrayfield, as both teams look to play the percentages.
As the last line of defence, Cuthbert knows he is going to have his work cut out dealing with all manner of awkward scenarios.
He said: “In this part of the world, you play in pretty poor conditions for four or five months a year and I think the days of running rugby will start dying off now that the ground is starting to soften.
“It kind of makes your job a little bit easier because you know that anything that comes near you has to be caught and dealt with.
“It definitely takes the speed out of the game, and the little things like line-kicking become ten times more important. So it is going to put a real emphasis on the accuracy of our skills.”
Edinburgh line-up to face Treviso
15 Jack Cuthbert 14 Dougie Fife 13 Sam Beard 12 Andries Strauss 11 Tim Visser 10 Greig Tonks 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne 1 Alasdair Dickinson 2 Neal Cochrane 3 John Andress 4 Anton Bresler 5 Ben Toolis 6 Mike Coman (capt.) 7 Roddy Grant 8 David Denton.
Substitutes: 16 James Hilterbrand 17 Grant Shiells 18 Willem Nel 19 Fraser McKenzie 20 Stuart McInally 21 Grayson Hart 22 Tom Heathcote 23 Joaquin Dominguez
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