Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons keen to extend contract

Alan Solomons

Alan Solomons

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Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons hopes his future at BT Murrayfield will be settled soon as he bids to guide the club into the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup.

The Capital outfit face Aviva Premiership side London Irish at the Madejski Stadium in Reading tomorrow evening with the prize up for grabs a home semi-final against Cardiff Blues or Newport Gwent Dragons.

With his troops enjoying an upswing in results, the South African coach is fully focused on tomorrow evening’s match but is hopeful that a deal to extend his contract, which is up at the end of the season, can be signed and sealed.

“There are discussions taking place and I’m sure they will come to fruition shortly,” said Solomons.

Asked if he wanted to stay he replied: “Yes. I think that we have made good progress here and I am positive about what we are doing, I am particularly pleased by how the team is going and very, very pleased at how our youngsters are coming through, which is part of the vision I have had for the club.

“We had to start from scratch and my first season I was not here for recruitment and I was not here for the pre-season so this is like the first season.”

Solomons recognises that Edinburgh’s backroom staff levels are currently well below that of inter-city rivals Glasgow and would need to be addressed for next season. “We have to have a look at our whole situation,” he said “At the moment we have been so focused on the rugby and the staff have been working like crazy and there has been a lot of pressure on us in terms of staffing generally.

“We have really had to focus on the job in hand; it is something that is under consideration and these things will be dealt with over the next few weeks I would say.”

Edinburgh make four changes to the side that ended Scarlets’ 15-month unbeaten home run in the Pro12 last weekend, including the return of three internationalists. Dougie Fife has recovered from injury to take his place on the right wing, while, in the pack, Alasdair Dickinson and Ross Ford return at loosehead and hooker. Captain Mike Coman sustained a head knock against Scarlets and, following the return to play protocols, Roddy Grant moves up from the bench to start on the blindside and complete a back-row that also includes Hamish Watson and David Denton at No. 8.

Only half of London Irish’s tartan contingent will be in action tomorrow, with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s old Merchiston school pal Scott Steele at scrum-half in addition to Blair Cowan. The newly clean-shaven Geoff Cross is not included in the Exiles’ 23 and neither is Glasgow-bound lock Kieran Low. Irish’s all-time leading try scorer, Topsy Ojo, returns to the starting line-up in the only change to the team that edged Newcastle Falcons 22-21 in the Aviva Premiership last weekend.

Solomons would love to get the win tomorrow and bring a European semi-final back to BT Murrayfield, rekindling memories of the historic run to the Heineken Cup semi-finals. This may be in the second-tier Challenge Cup but the South African believes it would still be a great occasion.

“It would be fantastic to have a home semi-final, a game here would be incredible,” said Solomons. “It would be a massive thing for the club, would be good for Scottish rugby and would be a massive thing for our supporters.

“But these are all one-off games so it is more difficult to predict knock-out rugby, the same as it is in the World Cup. It would be fantastic to play at home and we would strive to go as far as we can in this competition, obviously.

“All the quarter-finalists want to be successful in this competition, as we do, so we know what is at stake and that we have to play really well.

“We play London Irish on their home ground and know they will be very, very motivated because they are not in any danger of relegation in the English Premiership but nor do they have any prospect of making the top six.

“Therefore to get something out of their season a European Challenge Cup is a big thing for them.”