LEE Jones believes Edinburgh Rugby are a more complete side than when they romped to the semi-finals of the Heineken European Cup last season.
As the Capital outfit prepare to launch their bid today at Murrayfield against Saracens, the 24-year-old Scotland winger has been highlighting evidence which suggests a more formidable forward pack.
“The first three games of this season saw us gain two penalty tries for the opposition disrupting our scrum. That must say something about how well our forwards are doing,” said Jones, who said that the metamorphosis had not occurred by chance. “One of our targets at the start of the season was to change the way Edinburgh were perceived and we’ve given good indicators that the scrum is going well.”
Indeed, Edinburgh’s form in the Rabo Direct League may have been indifferent so far, but their tally of 16 tries is surpassed only by Scarlets (19).
Jones insisted that, allied to the additional forward strength, the platform exists to thoroughly test a Saracens team renowned for a tighter approach.
“I think it is going to be a clash of styles against Saracens and that will be good for the game of rugby and good for us.
“We just need to try to impose our game and try to come out on top that way,” said Jones.
In other words, Edinburgh would welcome the contest breaking up while remaining equipped to grind things out up front should circumstances demand.
Confirmation of the extra weaponry comes from coach Michael Bradley, who says the addition of props John Yapp and WP Nel has been key.
“I do feel better equipped this year. It was unfair all the pressure was on Geoff [Cross] and Allan [Jacobsen] and we said that to them,” said Bradley.
The task of starting goes to Yapp, signed from Cardiff and Nel [ex-Orange Free State]. Bradley added: “This season Geoff and Allan will be able to make a major impact from starting or coming off the bench while understanding the whole system won’t fall if they aren’t playing.
“We work with four props throughout a match and, to me, it doesn’t matter who does or doesn’t start. The important thing is our scrum is effective through the 80 minutes and Geoff and Allan will play a major part in the game.”
As for the starting front row, Bradley said: “Ross Ford is 116kgs, while the props are both 120kgs and that is a big unit by any standards.”
Ford will have a particularly crucial role to play being not only Scotland’s captain, but a leading ball carrier and tackler in the tournament last season.
While wary of statistics, Bradley admitted: “Ross is captain of Scotland and a senior member of our squad. You can take or leave stats, but Ross’s contribution is his leadership.
“He leads by example around the pitch. As for stats, we know we can play and they confirmed that ball carrying is a strong part of Edinburgh’s dna.
“We are not going to change that and we are also going to keep inching forward in terms of effectiveness of tackles as well as paying attention to penalty counts for and against.”
Meanwhile, Saracens will field four of the back-line who helped England to a 13-6 win at Murrayfield last season on Lee Jones’s international debut: Charlie Hodgson, Brad Barritt, David Strettle and Chris Ashton, plus Matt Stevens and Mouritz Botha up front.