Cruse, who spent six years with Wasps before they went into administration earlier this season, has joined Edinburgh on a short-term deal, primarily as cover for the injured Dave Cherry and Adam McBurney. Cherry could be back in action before the end of the year, and McBurney may be only a few weeks behind him, so Cruse’s opportunities to play for his new team may well be restricted. Nonetheless, Blair is certain that his experience and attitude make the new signing a good man to have around.
“Tom is a really consistent, experienced player, and all the reports we’ve heard say what a great guy he is as well,” the coach said. “And that’s important to us: the kind of man you are, how you fit in, how you’re going to add to the environment – and he’s slipped in really nicely already.
“With Adam and Dave both side-lined for a short period, the addition of Tom is vital. Dave’s hamstring injury isn’t long-term, but we don’t know over the next few weeks which week he’s going to come back on. We’ve got Europe coming up and you need to register your players for that as well. So we wanted to make sure we had cover.
“Adam has had surgery on his bicep and he is going to be a little bit longer. He’s definitely going to miss the first round of [European] games. So if we didn’t have someone in, we’d be really stretched.”
Stuart McInally is fit again and is likely to start against Benetton in Treviso on Saturday, while Cruse may be preferred to Patrick Harrison on the bench. Twenty-year-old Harrison was outstanding when he came on as an early replacement for McBurney in Edinburgh’s last outing, the league win at Cardiff, but given his inexperience Blair is loath to over-expose him.
Now that he has got that much-needed cover in the front row, the main issue facing the coach this week is who to rest for the trip to Italy. Emiliano Boffelli is thought to be keen to play following his exertions with Argentina over the Autumn Nations Series, but Blair seems set to give the Pumas star a rest either this weekend or for the next match at home to Munster.
The same goes for Scotland players such as Darcy Graham, Duhan van der Merwe, Blair Kinghorn. Pierre Schoeman and club and national captain Jamie Ritchie. Not only is there a protocol in place which limits the number of consecutive matches some can play, but Blair also believes in any case that it is at times wise to give a break even to those players such as Boffelli who want to keep playing as much as possible.
“Players aren’t always right,” added Blair. “We are very open to the opinions of the players and what they want to do, but they don’t always know that the right answer is. I think Boff has played the highest amount of minutes of any international player this season. We want to get the best out of him. He will get rested at some stage over the next couple of weeks.”