Edinburgh Rugby coach Alan Solomons is confident his side can take another step toward achieving his goal of becoming winners built on Scottish talent when they face Benetton Treviso on Guinness PRO12 duty tonight.
The Capital outfit kicked off the campaign with an impressive win over Leinster last Friday. And the key points contributor to that victory was Damien Hoyland who touched down twice in the 16-9 success. Hoyland is the latest Scot to make a mark – Solomons also points to Rory Sutherland, Hamish Watson, Ben Toolis and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne who broke through last season.
The coach offers the progress of Hoyland and Chris Dean as further evidence that his development policy is working. Now in his third season at the club, he was criticised in some quarters for a signing policy that appeared to centre on bringing in Southern Hemisphere players. Although his strategy now seems to be bearing fruit, there is no gloating from Solomons.
“It’s not about proving anyone right or wrong,” he said. “We want to build a sustainable club and bring in Scottish talent whether it is indigenous or from outside.”
And, harking back to the situation when he took over, Solomons added: “You can’t bring young players into a struggling team because it would stunt their development. And you need to have the conditioning right.
“The team is now solid enough and there is enough of a thread of experience to bring these guys through. We saw the green shoots last year and now it has advanced further. It’s a matter of time. We have a vision and we have a strategy to realise that vision. We are now at a stage where they are coming through. We are making progress and that will continue now that the pipeline is open.”
The team selection for tonight’s clash at Stadio Monigo in Treviso shows three changes from last week. Greig Tonks starts at full back in place of Jack Cuthbert, Sean Kennedy replaces Nathan Fowles as starting scrum-half and Fraser McKenzie earns the nod over Anton Bressler at lock.
Solomons has pinpointed the areas where his men must improve, stating: “In the first half (against Leinster) we created good situations but we gave away possession, made too many errors deep in the opposition half and didn’t translate possession into points. We dominated the territory in the second half and that resulted in us grinding out the win. It’s a massive plus that we are creating the opportunities but unfortunately we were unable to finish them.”
One area where he is looking for an improvement is goal kicking, and he sees the return of Tonks as a step towards addressing that issue. The player was involved in Vern Cotter’s World Cup preparations, but is now ready to contribute to Edinburgh’s bid to profit from the absence of key men in rival teams – the Italians, who lost 18-13 at Munster last week, have eight men absent on World Cup duty: Seven with Italy and one with Samoa.
Of the benefits that he has brought back from the international set up, Tonks said: “One or two small points in training and shaping things. I enjoyed being involved with the Scotland squad. It’s been a tough summer but I’m feeling good.”
Tonks and his colleagues were handed an additional incentive to deliver over the coming months with BT Murrayfield being chosen to host the Guinness PRO12 final in May.
“A lot of the guys were saying how good it would be to have an Edinburgh v Glasgow final. It would be amazing but that’s still a long way off,” he said before underlining the need to beat Treviso, adding: “We know this game is important because looking back over the last couple of seasons, some of the early results have been disappointing.”