INTERIM Edinburgh Rugby coach Duncan Hodge insists that tonight’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Newport Gwent Dragons at Murrayfield is far from meaningless.
Looking ahead to an encounter that will bring down the curtain on a disappointing campaign for the Capital outfit which sits third from bottom – one place above tonight’s opponents – Hodge said: “It’s a home game against a good side that is very tough to play against. They play an attractive brand of rugby and it is going to be a big game for us.”
Hodge, whose future in the role has not yet been resolved, has had mixed fortunes since assuming temporary coaching responsibility along with Steve Scott.
“We didn’t play well two weeks ago, but apart from that, we’ve had three decent performances. We were gutted against Connacht. We felt that was a game we should have won,” he added.
“We weren’t good enough that night to win and we got well beaten against Treviso, so there’s a lot of wrongs to put right and it’s about putting things in place for next year as well. It’s important to win your home games and to get confidence.”
An additional motivation for Edinburgh to perform well comes in the well-known shape of Allan Jacobsen, who will be making his final appearance for the club. “Bar the two years when I was in Leeds, I pretty much played my whole career with Chunk. It’s fantastic what he has done – apart from anything else, the longevity of having played at that level. That might never be done again – certainly at one club,” stated Hodge, who believes the prop’s farewell outing could provide some added motivation.
“It’s a credit to him and it will be a big hole in his life. Likewise, there will be a hole around Edinburgh. He’s been part of the furniture. It probably does add a bit of emotion and hopefully that translates onto the pitch. There’s a few guys leaving and everyone wants to sign off on a good note.”
While he has been working on setting up his post-rugby business as a plumber, Jacobsen is keen to end his 16-year career by playing a part in what would be Edinburgh’s seventh league win of the season.
“I’ve got a lot of things to get ready for what I’m going to do afterwards, so I’ve been pretty busy since I announced my retirement,” he said. “With regard to rugby, it’s been funny this week. At Monday’s gym session, I was thinking that I won’t be in here with the boys again, then driving in I was thinking I won’t ever be driving in for training again. I will miss it – the craic with the boys – but it’s time for me to move on. But everyone loves winning, so it would be good to get a win.”
Supporters will be able to pay their own tribute to the legendary 34-year-old by wearing “Chunk” masks which can be printed from the club website, www.edinburghrugby.org .
Recalled to the Edinburgh side are full back Greig Tonks and Willem Nel at tighthead, while Dundee High back rower Richie McIver is on the bench after a three-week spell training with the club. Tonks believes a victory is crucial to atone for several narrow defeats, saying: “It’s been a disappointing season for us, so we owe our supporters and everyone involved with the club to get a win and end on a high.
“We are not a million miles away from being a very good team. We’ve lost a lot of games by very small margins and we’ve let ourselves down by making small mistakes.”
While the match will not be shown on television, there was positive news yesterday on the broadcasting of RaboDirect PRO12 matches with Sky Sports agreeing a four-year deal that will start in the 2014/15 season.
The announcement acknowledges the quality of rugby on show, with 24 of the 37 British & Lions squad named this week currently plying their trade in the competition. “We believe that this agreement with Sky will allow us to bring our tournament to an even bigger audience,” said the league’s chief executive John Feehan.