EDINBURGH Rugby have denied scapegoating Ross Rennie after a howler which may ultimately have proved decisive in an 18-23 opening Rabo Direct Pro 12 defeat to Munster.
Despite the fact tonight’s clash with Cardiff at the Arms Park is only the second of the campaign and Rennie was not required for either of two pre-season encounters, Edinburgh have officially referred to their international flanker as being “rested”.
There is no doubt, though, that an incident where Rennie kicked possession away with a virtually unmarked colleague outside him in a potential scoring position caused consternation in the Capital camp at Murrayfield last weekend and, after announcing his team, coach Michael Bradley admitted he’d been sufficiently concerned to raise the question of why no pass was made by Rennie to put Richie Rees in the clear.
“We talked to Ross and he is a thorough professional, well aware he should have passed. That’s life. It was a rush of blood. “It was one-off. I don’t expect we’ll see him do it again,” said Bradley.
In fact, it isn’t the first time this year that Rennie’s peripheral vision has appeared to let him down as he was caught in a man-and-ball tackle at a critical stage of the Calcutta Cup which Scotland ended up losing 6-13 to England at the start of what proved a Six Nations whitewash.
Such incidents apart, though, the player had an otherwise excellent game for Edinburgh against Munster and was widely credited not only with timely tackles but a turnover which Tim Visser ended with a try. In the absence of the “resting” Rennie, there is now a call-up for Roddy Grant, who captained the side pre-season and Edinburgh can take comfort from the fact they at least scored three tries last week.
By contrast, in season 2011-12, it took them 260 minutes to post a similar number.
If that offers some encouragement then one of Edinburgh’s most celebrated players believes there is another reason why they consistently fail to generate initial momentum that can kick-start a league campaign – lack of atmosphere within Murrayfield that provides succour to the opposition.
Speaking this week to promote Macmillan Cancer Support seeking to raise £11 million through a nationwide series of coffee mornings on Friday, September 28, Scott Hastings said: “I have said all along Edinburgh have to look to play in more intimate surroundings.
“If Edinburgh are going to grow their brand, people have to be closer to the action.
“Sorry, I am not a fan of (Edinburgh) playing at Murrayfield,
“It gives an advantage to other teams and enables their players to get comfortable within the surrounding of Murrayfield. “This should be a special place for people to play on the inernational pitch for cups, league titles and the odd Heineken Cup game.”
Recalling how 38,000 turned up to see a Heineken European Cup quarter-final win over Toulouse last season, Hastings added: “As we saw versus Toulouse the demand IS there.
“It is time to really move forward and find an alternative playing venue. It is no easy fix (but) I have just come back from the Olympics where they have created stadia across a number of venues.
“Where is all that seating now?
“Is there not an opportunity to build a mini-Murrayfield? I think Scottish rugby needs to look at that.”
On a weekend where Glasgow move into a specially-adapted Scotstoun Stadium, Hastings added: “It is a costly exercise building a semi-permanent stadium but undoubtedly the support is there (at Edinburgh).
“An intimate stadium can spark the team.
“Players deserve a better atmosphere.
“In the middle of winter when the crowd is only 3-4000 they need that crowd to get them over the line.
“The umbilical cord which attaches the crowd to the team is hugely important.
“There have undoubtedly been conversations about going back to Meadowbank but the financial situation is such that it will only be done with a land deal (to sell part of the sporting site).
“They are just about to dismantle a stand that has been sitting up on the Castle Esplanade for last six weeks.
“Can that not be used on Murrayfield back pitches or a club ground?
“Cardiff Blues are back at the Arms Park (after three years at Cardiff City Stadium) because they need that intimacy.”
Intriguingly, Cardiff’s relocation starts tonight with Edinburgh the visitors.