EDINBURGH RUGBY head coach Alan Solomons is adamant the young members of his squad can make their mark during the upcoming Guinness PRO12 season – and admits he has been looking at a number of club players to see if they can step up to the professional environment.
With 13 of his key men currently away at the Scotland pre-World Cup training camp, Solomons has been working closely with the remainder of the squad during July to get them up to speed ahead of the league kick-off in early September.
And the head coach has been really impressed with the way some of his younger players have matured – the likes of Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury and Chris Dean – while BT Academy members Ross Graham, Jack Cosgrove and Lewis Carmichael have been training with the first-team squad. Former George Watson’s College and Watsonians back-row Neil Irvine-Hess, his Melrose team mate Murdo McAndrew and Craig Bachurzewski – who propped for Biggar last year and is a Polish internationalist – have also been invited to work with them during this week’s camp in St Andrews.
Recently, Glasgow Warriors have announced a number of players who have signed either short-term deals to cover the World Cup period or partnership contracts – where they are linked to the pro team and a club – and Edinburgh look likely to follow suit.
Solomons said: “This week in St Andrews has been excellent. It has been great to get away.
“The players had a golf day on Wednesday which they really enjoyed and the young players have blended in really nicely with everybody which has been great to see.
“Those guys know that during pre-season and during the time when the World Cup is on they will get a chance in the first team and they are hungry.
“Remember also, what happens to us after mid-October is that we have sixteen games back to back so we will need to rotate players and everyone will get their chance even after the World Cup.
“Of the young players, well there is a lot of competition in the back-row, but Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury are both very good players so I think those two boys and Chris Dean and Damien Hoyland [currently with Scotland] in the backs will push on this season.
“Young Jack Cosgrove has impressed me enormously as a loosehead, while Alex Toolis will also get game time in the second-row this year.
“The way the club players have trained has impressed me tremendously. We have gone out there and scoured the club scene and I think in Murdo and Craig we have unearthed players that can add real value and will grow as time goes on. We will continue to monitor things and look at the situation going forward [regarding short-term deals and partnership contracts].”
It all sounds promising for up-and-coming club prospects then – Heriot’s skipper Jack Turley stepped in to play last year against Leinster – while it is thought that some full-time Scotland Sevens players may also be drafted in during the World Cup period, although that is to be confirmed.
In terms of recruitment, winger Will Helu and centre Michael Allen have arrived safely while back-row Nasi Manu is set to touchdown in the Capital next week.
Solomons does not expect many more new arrivals although he is still keeping an eye on one potential target.
Meanwhile, after finishing eighth in 2014/15, Solomons expects his team to be in a top-six spot in the PRO12 come next May.
“I think the absolute minimum is making the top six – that is a priority this year for us,” he stated.
“We did well in the European Rugby Challenge Cup last year by reaching the final and we are excited about that competition again, but coming in the top six in the PRO12 is absolutely critical for us.
“At Edinburgh, we have a tightly knit group, some really good guys in the team and, yes, we don’t have the budgets of some of the other teams, but these guys are capable of achieving a lot together on the pitch over the coming months.”