Ian Rankin: Edinburgh must nail stand-off position

Edinburgh University captain Rory Jones (left) and St Andrews University's Robert Ridley-Thomas are joined by Scottish Rugby Vice President Ian Rankin to promote the forthcoming clash between Edinburgh University and St Andrews University which is the oldest varsity rugby fixture in the world. The match takes place at London Scottish RFC in Richmond, Surrey on Saturday, kick-off 6pm
Edinburgh University captain Rory Jones (left) and St Andrews University's Robert Ridley-Thomas are joined by Scottish Rugby Vice President Ian Rankin to promote the forthcoming clash between Edinburgh University and St Andrews University which is the oldest varsity rugby fixture in the world. The match takes place at London Scottish RFC in Richmond, Surrey on Saturday, kick-off 6pm
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Former Edinburgh coach Ian Rankin believes sorting out stand off problems holds the key to a revival for the professional club.

The current SRU vice president, who moved to the club scene at Dundee High FPs when his association with an Edinburgh side he also served as manager ended around a decade ago, has kept a close eye on the professional outfit.

And he is adamant that any successful side needs to show authority in the playmaker position.

“There are problems (for Edinburgh) obviously at stand off at the moment which isn’t helping,” said Rankin as he helped promote Saturday’s oldest inter-university clash between Edinburgh and St Andrews which will take place in Richmond, London.

In Edinburgh’s case, Harry Leonard is still finding his way as a stand off at a time when Piers Francis, Gregor Hunter and Greig Laidlaw are all on the injured list for various lengths of time.

“Edinburgh have had some poor luck in the stand off department, a curse of the No. 10s, almost,” says Rankin. “It is such a key position, though, as he is the guy who runs the show. The stand off is the one who needs to know how the game is to be played.”

Rankin’s teams were particularly well served with the likes of Duncan Hodge, Gordon Ross and Craig Chalmers filling the pivotal role at various times.

What Edinburgh would give for someone of such talent just now and eyebrows continue to be raised when a newcomer arrives to fill what seems sometimes like every position other than stand off.

Perhaps, though, the answer can lie closer to home.

“The answer can sometimes be to chuck someone in,” said Rankin. “During World Cups when players are away sometimes somebody comes along and grabs an opportunity. It can be the making of them but there is all sorts of chat around (about possible fill-ins) just now. Alex Blair of Edinburgh Accies has been given an opportunity to train part-time once again after a previous stint ended through injury and Rory Hutton has been playing well for Hawick but it is such a step up from the club game to the professional ranks.”

The Evening News learned last week that Finn Russell, fourth choice Glasgow stand off but who celebrated his 21st birthday only yesterday, was being lined-up to assist Edinburgh on loan only for the proposed deal to then break down. Indications were that Edinburgh wanted more of a kicking stand off and what is certain is that time is not on Edinburgh’s side with the start of the prestigious Heineken European Cup only three matches away and it could be that Laidlaw is being eased back with that in mind while Leonard made his breakthrough in a successful Euro campaign two years ago.

Rankin claims that fortunes can quickly change.

“When things go against you everything goes against you and the guys have lost confidence. It’s a tough thing when, after you’ve built a product over a long time, it can go back a long way and let’s be brutally honest that has happened at Edinburgh.

“(But) I watched Edinburgh against Dragons and, while they were nervous, I thought getting a win would give them confidence.

“Even though that was a scrappy win at the end of the day they showed flashes of some very, very good stuff. On Saturday (at Ospreys) that was a pretty good outfit they were up against away from home and you get punished for mistakes. It’s not going to be easy to pull it back but sometimes you just need a break here and there.

“Glasgow have now got themselves into a situation where, if they get a knock back during a game, it doesn’t affect them. They just roll their sleeves up and get stuck in.

“It hasn’t always been like that at Glasgow and that’s the situation Edinburgh have to try to get themselves in.

“Glasgow have some iconic leaders like Al Kellock who, when they have been struggling, is the guy who helps turn things around.

“Edinburgh have a very experienced coach in Alan Solomons and he is already working on what has to happen.

“It’s strange but it is the nature of the sport that soon there could be so many fit players it is even more necessary to rotate, a situation that was once regarding as a cop-out but now makes more and more sense in the professional game.”