THE general consensus is that Edinburgh’s pack is one of the best in the Guinness PRO12 and it is the backline that needs to up its games as the capital side strive to end a run of six straight bottom half finishes.
Head coach Alan Solomons will tonight field five new signings behind the scrum as Edinburgh open their campiagn with a tough trip to face Cardiff Blues (kick-off 7.35pm).
Duncan Weir and Glenn Bryce start at stand-off and full-back, former Ulster man Rory Scholes is on the right wing and Sasa Tofilau and Solomoni Rasolea form a new-look centre pairing.
As an openside flanker, Hamish Watson is a key link between forwards and backs and has been involved in the work to develop a more potent attack that complements a strong set-piece and defence.
“I think we have worked a lot on our attack this summer,” said the Scotland breakaway, who scored five tries for Edinburgh last season. “We have always been a physical and abrasive team and Alan does not want us to lose that.
“We have a front row that is the Scotland front row and we are good in the maul and the set-piece. But everybody knows we lack scoring as many tries as Glasgow and those teams.
“We have worked on that side of the game a lot and hopefully we should see an improvement in that side of the game this year.
“These are exciting times with the gameplan. As a back row we have a bit of freedom with Solly. He lets us roam the field. There are lots of opportunities to get tries. We have a good backline and we can work off them. it should be a good chance for us to score tries.”
Meanwhile, Solomons hinted yesterday that Fijian Olympic champion Viliame Mata will be joining the club.
Reports in the Fijian media last week said that a deal had been done and the 24-year-old lock/flanker was awaiting visas for him and his family to make their way to Scotland. However, there has been no official announcement from Edinburgh as yet.
Asked about the potential signing yesterday, Solomons said: “I think there will be an announcement in due course. But be positive. Very positive.”
Mata was part of the Fiji squad which won the world sevens series last season and then a historic first Olympic medal for the South Seas island when they beat Great Britain to gold in the Rio final last month.
Last week Edinburgh managing director Jonny Petrie dismissed rumours linking John Hardie with a move to Wasps. The Scotland flanker is not in the squad this weekend but Solomons said: “John had a little bit of a run out here, he got stuck in New Zealand, there was a delay with his visa, and he definitely looks to me like he’s underdone and needs an extra week of conditioning.
“So he’s stayed in the rugby programme.”
Cornell du Preez, the No 8 who had a clean-out operation on his ankle at the end of the season, has been released to play for Heriot’s today.
Cardiff were one of the form teams in the league towards the end of last season and this evening’s match is a tough start for an Edinburgh team desperate to get some early momentum in their bid to atone for last season’s poor ninth-place finish.
“We want to finish as high as we can in the league,” added Solomons. “If you ask Cardiff their ambition will be exactly the same. Everybody wants a play-off spot. We don’t want to end up landing extra pressure on ourselves. We’ll take it game by game and what’s very important for us is, if we are in a position to win a game, we close it out.
“[Last season] there were games there that we should have won and didn’t. You pay a price for that because the margins are very fine in this league. Cardiff at home will not be an easy game for anybody this season.”
Cardiff coach Danny Wilson has named a strong team containing 14 full internationals and will be looking to maintain their daunting home form after an 80 per cent success rate at the Arms Park last season.