Jack Cuthbert is ready to put the boot in and be chief party pooper when Edinburgh Rugby visit Glasgow Warriors in the RaboDirect Pro12 at Scotstoun tonight.
Greig Laidlaw returns at scrum-half after a short sabbatical geared to improve his international form on tour this summer, but coach Alan Solomons may still have a decision to make on goal-kicking duties.
Before temporarily bowing out, Laidlaw was in charge of that department, but it was increasingly clear he had lost some sharpness off the tee for both club and country. Also, when Laidlaw was rested after autumn internationals for the European Cup trip to Gloucester, Cuthbert stepped up and booted Edinburgh to a famous win with three penalties and a conversion.
More recently, in Edinburgh’s last win a month ago, Cuthbert’s 13 points proved crucial in a 23-19 success at Newport Gwent Dragons.
“Kicking is something that has been part of my game for a long time,” says Cuthbert. “In the same way as I have been looking for performances as a player I’m keen to develop my goal-kicking as well. I’m hoping that, at the start of next season when Greig is off (to Gloucester), I’ll be considered for my kicking also.”
Of course, Solomons also has stand-off Carl Bezuidenhout to turn to for kicking duties but what really matters, according to Cuthbert, is reproducing form that makes Edinburgh the only team to defeat Munster so far in this season’s European Cup.
To put that effort into context, Munster shrugged off the defeat to go into a semi-final tomorrow against Toulon in Marseilles as strong tournament contenders.
“It isn’t just Munster we have beaten but Perpignan and Leinster at home as well,” says full back/wing Cuthbert. “Some really big names have fallen to us and the problem has been losing some games you would have expected us to win. That is what has made our season relatively frustrating.
“We have dropped off and not performed when we should have.”
Whereas Edinburgh are playing mainly for pride, having failed to qualify for a place in the new-look Champions Cup next season, victory would put Glasgow in line for a home semi-final when the Pro12 reaches the play-off stage.
Says Cuthbert, who was the only unused sub when Scotland crashed to Wales at the end of the latest Six Nations Championship, thereby failing to add to a cap earned in a World Cup warm-up match three years ago: “Credit Glasgow with pinching a lot of games in the last twenty minutes.
“One of these was when they managed to beat us at Murrayfield over Christmas in a match that really ought to have gone our way.
“But there was a real edge to the first derby I had experienced since moving from Bath last summer, which makes this weekend particularly exciting. Would I like to be a party pooper? Yes, I’m definitely up for that, but it is important we focus on ourselves.”
That means trying to pick up at least two points to surpass last season’s league aggregate haul of 36, which might offer tangible evidence of improvement.
Meanwhile, much will depend on flanker Cornell Du Preez, whose prescribed rest ultimately amounted to only the first 15 minutes on the bench last weekend as Edinburgh became the first Scottish side ever to lose to Italian makeweights Zebre.
Just seven days after saying of Du Preez “I think, if you take his southern hemisphere season and this season together, he has played in excess of 45 games”, coach Alan Solomons has included the flanker.
Solomons says: “There are a number of issues. Roddy (Grant) is not available. We have done what we can to fresh him (Du Preez) by cutting his practice. You may leave him out of practice altogether earlier in the week.
“You have just got to do those sort of things at this point to keep him fresh.”
Another feature of the Edinburgh matchday squad is a bench line-up that not only includes the soon-to-leave Piers Francis but the fact that all eight players have arrived at Edinburgh from abroad, albeit some are Scots-qualified on ancestry.