Dougie Fife goes into tonight’s make-or-break Challenge Cup clash with Bordeaux Begles at BT Murrayfield on the brink of joining an elite group of players who have scored four tries or more for Edinburgh Rugby in a European campaign.
Injured for two of the matches, winger Fife – named this week in Scotland’s squad for the RBS Six Nations Championship – proved his worth with touchdowns in successive outings against Bordeaux-Begles (away), London Welsh and Lyon, when fit.
In 18 seasons of competition only Jamie Mayer (’98-’99), Brendan Laney (’02-’03) and Tim Visser (’11-’12) have managed four while Conan Sharman holds the outright record of five back in ’09-’00).
Fife admits it is good to be picking up the try scent but insists the emphasis is on the team making “one last push” for the victory that would take Edinburgh through to the quarter-finals.
“We’ve been putting our bodies on the line for months so we are not going to stop one game before the international window opens and the club take a fortnight’s break,” says Fife.
What will help, he reckons, is facing French opposition in back-to-back matches. “It does mean we are analysing French teams for a second successive week because in general they do play in a different way. Our latest opponents are broadly similar but maybe Bordeaux will kick a bit more because they have a very good stand off in (French internationalist) Lionel Beauxis.
“I love playing in Europe because it is a different mindset with players getting a bit more excited through different opposition being capable of bringing a bit more out of us. And, after failing to do ourselves justice in just losing out at Lyon last week, the aim is to come good in what is a cup-final type match with the winners guaranteed to progress.”
It was suggested that Edinburgh were fatigued through travelling to successive away games on top of the intensity of derby matches with Glasgow and Fife admitted: “At the time I didn’t feel any different in Lyon but looking back on this week it has been a more settled feeling to be at home preparing.”
Helping Edinburgh prepare, although ineligible for selection, has been New Zealand-born flanker Hugh Blake, named in the Scotland squad but yet to play for Edinburgh.
What insight can colleague Fife provide? “Hugh looks like a really good player. He’s good over the ball and a good attacker as well. He’ll definitely be an asset and Edinburgh will be dying to play him as soon as they get a chance.”
A draw could be good enough for Edinburgh depending on the outcome of Lyon’s match with London Welsh but Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons wants his players, particularly the younger ones now part of the Scotland squad, to show they can handle an occasion that has come at the perfect time so far as individual honours are concerned.
Ben Toolis, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Hamish Watson are the uncapped trio looking to force their way into the reckoning for Test debuts next month.
Solomons said: “(Scotland coach) Vern Cotter will be watching this game. Bordeaux are a good side and there is quite a lot of pressure on this game like a derby game is.
“It is always important to see how players react under pressure situations.
“I am absolutely sure the response will be good and if they have a really good game cognizance will be taken of it.”
Edinburgh No.8 Dave Denton feels tonight’s clash will provide a taste of what to expect when the Six Nations gets underway. “We have to come out with a win. It will be Test match rugby two weeks early.
“We let ourselves down in the second half against Lyon. We made a few unforced errors but the potential of knock out rugby and being at Murrayfield for the quarter final brings back memories of the match against Toulouse here in the last eight of the Cup three years ago.”