Edinburgh winger Dougie Fife is relishing the latest in a string of crucial matches when the Capital outfit welcome Leinster to BT Murrayfield tomorrow, kick-off 3pm.
The hosts must win the Guinness Pro12 match to have any hope of top-tier European competition next season.
Fife admits that he and his colleagues were well short of the required level in last Friday’s defeat away by Dragons. But he is confident that they can atone for that underperformance back at the national stadium.
Anything less than a victory will extinguish any lingering hopes Edinburgh might have of securing an automatic Champions Cup berth next season. And even a victory might not be sufficient. Scarlets sit in sixth and are favourites to bag the final automatic European place, leaving Edinburgh and Connacht to vie for a play-off against Gloucester, with the winners hosting the seventh-placed side in the French Top 14. Before contemplating that route to qualification, Fife knows that tomorrow’s performance must be better than they delivered last time out.
“Things just didn’t seem to go our way. I don’t know if it was that we were tired because we had a few big games leading up to it. It was a massive game for us, we knew how important it was. The boys did struggle a bit more than usua,l” he said, before looking ahead to the opportunity to put things right. “It gives a bit more meaning to this game as well. It has annoyed us more than anything. This one is massive – it’s a do or die thing for us now.
“The last three or four games have been cup finals for us and this one definitely is. It’s that last shot to get to the Champions Cup through the play-offs. We have to win this week and see what happens in the Connacht v Ospreys game.”
While Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons, who this week agreed a one year contract extension, suggested that the relentless programme over recent weeks may have taken its toll, Fife takes a different view.
“We have played a lot of rugby but I have felt that when we have a week away I personally haven’t had my best game when I come back into it,” he said. “It’s keeping us together, it’s keeping us ticking over We are tight as a squad. In that game against the Dragons, nothing really went our way.”
The prize of another opportunity to lock horns with Gloucester is added motivation for Edinburgh, and Fife voiced his frustration at the recent European Challenge Cup Final defeat. “It’s a massive game for us this week and if we win this game we are obviously going to be up for it if it comes down to Gloucester away for that Champions Cup spot because that’s all we are aiming for now. We are obviously annoyed not to win the final with Gloucester. We know we can beat them.”
He acknowledged that tomorrow’s opponents may feel liberated to play open rugby, and that such an approach could make it tough for the hosts.
“They have already qualified for the Champions Cup, they can’t qualify for the play-offs or the league. I would imagine they will come over and they might not have much to play for but they can be pretty dangerous at times. They can throw the ball about, have a bit of fun out there and cause a bit of damage.”
That said, while Leinster have been below their normal high standards this season, they will be looking to sign off with a win. And, as added motivation, while they cannot reach the league play-offs, they will arrive in the Capital knowing that a win will secure fifth place in the league and give them a higher seeding in the Champions Cup draw.
That should ensure the encounter is a full-blooded affair. In previous years Edinburgh have reached the final phase of the campaign with nothing to play for. This time every game has had something at stake. And Fife is confident that he and his colleagues will be ready. “We will play that test match rugby that we need to win,” he concluded.