Edinburgh Rugby rookie Sam Hidalgo–Clyne admits it will be a devastating blow if his team’s long association with the Heineken Cup ends this season and insists they will fight until it is mathematically impossible to qualify under the new format.
The battle to qualify for Europe, by virtue of claiming a top-six place in the RaboDirect PRO12, continues tonight with a re-arranged encounter at Newport Gwent Dragons.
And 20-year-old Hidalgo-Clyne, who will be making his first start on the wing, says: “The boys are trying to do everything to get into the Heineken. If we didn’t make it then the boys would be gutted.
“I grew up as a youngster looking forward to that tournament. It’s massive.”
Edinburgh currently lie ninth and are 11 points behind the sixth-place Scarlets but with two games in hand. Were they to win both and gain try-bonus points, the gap would close to a single point with a four-match run-in remaining.
The best thing Edinburgh can do is focus on climbing as high as possible and, for Hidalgo-Clyne, tonight’s start brings back happy memories.
“Dragons was my first win in an Edinburgh jersey earlier this season,” he recalled.
A last-gasp penalty by Harry Leonard clinched a 16-13 success that day albeit wins in Wales have proved harder to come by for Edinburgh.
It was in 2009 that the Murrayfield side last won in Wales, while their last win away ti Dragons came in 2006.
Adding to the challenge is the short turn-around, with Edinburgh having been in action last Saturday. Their midweek slot is connected to television options available over a weekend when the Heineken Cup quarter-finals take centre stage.
Hidalgo-Clyne said: “A five day turnaround is tough and the team has had to be managed carefully. The defence session was not too heavy and we are trying to get boys into it for this next game.”
In the circumstances it is perhaps surprising that Edinburgh have not rotated more.
However, fielding Hidalgo-Clyne out wide even in a game where Euro hopes are hanging by a thread is one the player and coach are adamant can be taken successfully. “I got ten minutes on the wing at Treviso last weekend and felt quite good,” said Hidalgo-Clyne. “It was nice to be in a bit of space and not crowded by forwards.
“I also came off the bench earlier in the season to play on the wing at Cardiff. Alan (Solomons) has a lot of trust in me which is nice.
“I want to show my talent and I feel my skills are transportable. Playing sevens has helped my running game. Playing full back in age grade as well has helped.
“It is slightly different from catching, kicking and running the game but I played Edinburgh age-group stuff at stand off before being moved to full back for an international tournament.
“I’d play anywhere for Edinburgh. It is another opportunity to get on the pitch at 20 years old, which is good. I’ve not played a huge amount of rugby this year.”
Edinburgh are still seeking a first away win of the league campaign, having seen the latest opportunity slip away at Treviso. “That’s what happens when you don’t take your chances and the other team does,” said Hidalgo-Clyne.
“Dragons didn’t have a good game either, drawing 25-25 with Zebre. This game is up for grabs and it depends who wants it more. I know from playing them previously that they like offloads so we have got to be careful.
“It’ll be a case of getting momentum in the first 20 minutes then go into the second half leading and trying to get points in the second half.”
Defending the selection of a scrum half at wing when there are two other No. 9s – Grayson Hart and Sean Kennedy – in the squad, coach Solomons denied it was experimentation.
“I like to involve Sammy as part of his development.
“Being part of the team aids his development. He showed in cameo against Treviso he is a talented footballer. He is just back from a shoulder injury and is buzzing.”
On Edinburgh’s European prospects and their dismal away form, Solomons says the team’s development is still in its early stages.
“I regard our team in the infancy of development,” said the coach. “The way it starts is you are more successful at home.
“You are not travelling, and sleeping in your own bed is the essence of familiarity.
“As we develop we will overcome that. In the last three games we have managed to get a losing bonus point. Now need to take that step up and get a win.
“Next season will take care of itself. We have made really good progress this year and laid a lot of foundations.
“Obviously we want to finish the season on a good note.
“Mathematically it is still possible to make Europe, even though it will be difficult.
“There’s no point in not while there is still a possibility. The team is very motivated to do well for its own sake.”