The Scottish scrum-half coach recruited by Edinburgh Rugby to bring out the best in ‘King Solomons’ 9s’ believes that competition in this pivotal position can spur the team to glory.
Derrick Patterson, 46, capped twice by Scotland including at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, brings with him a wealth of experience from stints at Hawick, Edinburgh Accies, West Hartlepool, North and Midlands, Stade Francais, Natal Sharks and Italian side Petrarca.
However, it was while coaching youngsters in his native Borders that a meeting on the golf course with Edinburgh forwards coach Stevie Scott resulted in an invitation from head coach Alan Solomons to assist Grayson Hart, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Sean Kennedy, pictured, who starts in tonight’s Guinness PRO12 clash at home to Connacht.
“All three of these lads are tremendous players but they bring something different,” said Scott. “Competition isn’t just driving them on, it is having a positive effect on the team as well when people see how hard you have to work to earn the jersey at Edinburgh. I work quite a lot in Edinburgh (he has a joinery business) so getting along to Murrayfield for sessions when required is no hardship. I feel my interest in rugby has been rejuvenated.
“Along the way I’ve been privileged to work with some great coaches, including Bernard Laporte, who went from Stade Francais to become French national coach. At Natal I played at half back with Joel Stransky, whose drop goal won the World Cup for South Africa in 1995, while I have been keeping my hand in coaching Petrarca in Padua.
“Although Edinburgh are so well placed for scrum halfs, it is amazing how you can still find little things to work on as a coach such as peripheral vision, kicking and passing, especially on a one-to-one basis. Sean in particular has come on leaps and bounds in a short time, especially by putting length on his pass. Grayson is such a strong player with so much power. By working on his footwork he has been able to find something extra, while Sam is another with loads of pace. I can sense that Edinburgh are going to do something under Alan Solomons – he has impressed me with how daft he is on his rugby.”
Solomons is equally delighted with the new part-time recruit, saying: “Derrick does a very, very good job with us. He conducts excellent sessions.”
Solomons has made two changes for tonight’s match, with Nick McLennan coming in for the injured Tim Visser and Sam Beard switching to wing to accommodate Phil Burleigh at centre. Despite the fact Edinburgh hammered Connacht 43-10 in their biggest win of last season, Solomons is taking nothing for granted. He said: “Just after we beat Connacht they won at Toulouse in the Heineken Cup. Not many teams manage that, which is a measure of what we are up against.”
Tonight’s game will be the first rugby match on Murrayfield’s new hybrid surface, and the expectation of more reliable footing is particularly welcomed by the front rows, according to international prop Ally Dickinson. “Last season was not ideal in terms of scrummaging but we just had to get on with it,” said Dickinson.
Forwards coach Scott has also had a big impact on a promising start to the season for Edinburgh, who started their league campaign with victory at mighty Munster last week. “Stevie has come up with loads of innovative ideas,” added Dickinson. “We’ve had harnesses strapped on us, pulling to opposite ends and going head on to Swiss balls as well as crawling with weights on our backs! Credit to Stevie for finding these things but we are not as good as we can be yet.”
After last week’s win over Newport Gwent Dragons, Connacht have Irish caps Kieran Marmion and Robbie Henshaw back at scrum half and centre respectively, while Willie Falloon returns at flanker.