Edinburgh must pass acid test in Treviso

Stuart McInally wants to establish himself at hooker

Stuart McInally wants to establish himself at hooker

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With points to be made up in their remaining six games if they are to reach the promised land of a prestigious Champions Cup place next season, Edinburgh can’t afford to hit the skids when they visit Benetton Treviso in the Pro12 tonight.

And nobody is more aware than Stuart McInally who, in looking forward to his first start after switching from back row to hooker two years ago, refuses to read anything into the fact Treviso were trounced 48-0 at BT Murrayfield recently.

“Italians are totally different at home, hard to beat. They have just had a good result over Cardiff in Treviso and we have just lost to Cardiff. It will be good to see whether we are a top-six team because a top-six team will go there and win.”

Coach Alan Solomons is equally keen to emphasise the need for concentration in a fixture which has gone with the home side on each of the last seven occasions.

“Treviso are Jekyll and Hyde. When they play away they’re one team ... at home completely different. It seems to me they say, ‘blow it, let’s put our energy into home games’.

“Here, in the last 20 minutes, they gave up the ghost. It’s very much an Italian thing. Long ago French clubs played away and expected to lose but that has changed.”

After back-to-back defeats against Ulster and Cardiff, is there now pressure to start trying to gather try bonus points on a ground where Edinburgh have only won once?

“We’re not in that panic position,” insists McInally who does, however, highlight another incentive.

“With only a couple of games now before we visit London Irish in the Challenge Cup quarter-final (Edinburgh also have to go to Scarlets) we are 100 per cent keen to give ourselves a springboard.

“We’ve worked hard in Europe to qualify for the knockout stages. It would be such a shame to go in under cooked. Nothing but a win this week will do.”

If Edinburgh have worked hard for their place at the business end of a Euro competition then so, too, has McInally in overcoming various setbacks to re-invent himself as a hooker.

The most recent came when he had to pull out of the Edinburgh squad prior to facing Ulster having finally entered the fray at hooker from off the bench the previous weekend in the win over Ospreys.

“Before Ulster my back seized up. It would have been selfish for me to play that game. I waited long enough for the chance and as much as I wanted to play the team has got to come first.

“Ultimately I made the right decision and it was nice the coaches had confidence to put me on after 55 minutes of a tight game at Cardiff.

“When I feel that confidence I tend to play a bit better. For me that includes carrying the ball a wee bit wider out as opposed to closer like a traditional hooker might do. I made the move to play like a fourth back row the way a lot of hookers now do. I never want to get away from that.

“The last two weeks have been massively frustrating. Edinburgh were on a decent roll and setting ourselves good standards as a (potential) top-six team.

“We set ourselves these standards and when the international players go away we should still be consistent.”

Solomons welcomes the return of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Greig Tonks, Matt Scott, Ben Toolis and Hamish Watson.

And he believes they will add a spark to the team. “I think they can play a big role. They are fresh, eager and have not had a lot of game time. They are itching to play.”