Dougie Fife goes into his first game for Edinburgh Rugby as a Scotland internationalist, against Ulster at Murrayfield tonight, with revenge on his mind.
The 23-year-old winger, who made his debut for the national team against Wales last weekend, traces the start of his big push towards top honours back to the meeting with Ulster at Ravenhill, Belfast, last November. On that occasion he notched the first of five tries in seven matches, but it is the result of the contest that continues to haunt him.
“In some ways that match was where it started to go right for me,” he said. “However, we lost quite heavily (41-17) so Ulster remain one of the few teams in the league I have yet to get a win against. In that respect we owe them one and even more so because the focus, more than ever, is to finish in the top six.”
That was a reference to the impending announcement that qualification places in next season’s European Cup will be decided on league placings.
Strictly speaking, seven RaboDirect PRO12 teams will be included in a 20-team format, but since each of the countries who make up the Six Nations are guaranteed one representative and Italian teams currently fill the bottom two PRO12 places, seventh spot is unlikely to be enough to secure qualification. Edinburgh are currently eighth.
If that previously Ulster match was bitter-sweet then the real “laugh or cry” moment for Fife came in Cardiff last Saturday as his Scotland bow coincided with a 51-3 thrashing at the hands of the Welsh.
“In your heart, it is more about crying because you never want to lose, especially in the way we did,” he said. “But at the same time you have to remember what it is you have achieved, especially if it is something you have been dreaming about for a long time. I was never told like some of the lads to take a break so it was straight into training on Monday for this Ulster match. I was dying to get in and throw a ball about and put things right. Immediately after the game in Cardiff it was dark but having had a bit of time to myself, it is now important to look ahead to the final eight games of the season with Edinburgh.
“After that there is a summer tour with Scotland that I am desperate to be on, although competition in the back three is only going to get tougher with Sean Maitland, Tim Visser and others due back.
“Vern Cotter is coming in as coach and I don’t know to what extent he’ll change things but Scott Johnson is still going to be involved and he knows what I can do.”
Fife is indebted to Edinburgh for propelling him on to the Test stage, with the winger also highlighting help received from Ally Donaldson at Currie and former College lecturer and Scotland A cap Murray Craig, who recommended him to his club. “From the start I got on a run of games at Currie and I’m grateful also to Alan Solomons and the other Edinburgh coaches for the work they have put in with me,” he said.
Coach Solomons sees Fife as a major strike weapon tonight in a bid to make it four home wins in a row against Irish opposition in all competitions.
“Dougie has had a really good season for us and has grown as a player,” says Solomons. “Defensively, he has grown and our coaches have done a great job in terms of his defence and aerial skills.”