Edinburgh Rugby scrum half Chris Leck is itching to help his colleagues make amends for last week’s dismal effort in Wales when Benetton Treviso provide the RaboDirect PRO12 opposition at Murrayfield tonight (kick off 7.30pm).
Leck entered the fray with 11 minutes left to play in the 32-12 defeat away to Newport/Gwent Dragons, a result that the player admits fell well short of the standards expected of Michael Bradley’s side.
“Everyone is eager to get back out on the field in front of a home crowd and put it right because it was frustrating last week,” said the 26-year-old, who will be making his first start of the current campaign. “We let ourselves down. The dressing room after it was horrible because everyone knew that we had let ourselves down.”
And, he admitted that, while a win is the primary objective for the home players, they have a secondary target, which is to perform well enough to force their way into the selection deliberations for next week’s Heineken Cup opener at home to Saracens.
“Everyone would like to start a Heineken Cup game. It’s an opportunity. Everyone will be fighting for places, not just in the game against Treviso but also in training all next week”, he added. “But it’s more important to get a win to bump us up the league and then build the momentum to the following week against Saracens. We really need to get a win for the league, first and foremost,” he added. The Italians have yet to win away from home this season, but the two successes they have recorded – over champions Ospreys on the opening weekend and against high flying Scarlets last Saturday – underline the task that awaits Edinburgh.
Leck, whose inclusion is one of ten changes to the team that started in Wales last week, expects a tough test. “I think it’s going to be a very physical game,” he said. “We’ve got to really match them and beat them in the contact area for our game plan to take place and for us to get the win. The most important thing is being physically dominant.”
And while he would gladly settle for a repeat of last season’s corresponding encounter, which Edinburgh won 44-21, Leck admits that the margin of victory is less of an issue than emerging on top.
“It’s important that we get the win, whether that be 3-0,” he said. “If we turn up defensively and show discipline then we are a good attacking side and we do thrive on going forward and getting front foot ball. If we do that, hopefully we will cause them some problems.”
Among the backs, only Greig Tonks, Ben Atiga and Tim Visser survive from the starting team against Dragons, while all but Allan Jacobsen and Sean Cox have been dropped from the pack. Among the changes, Greig Laidlaw returns as skipper, while Dimitri Basilaia will have his first start for the club. Bradley is relishing a return to home territory but has warned his players to avoid becoming involved in the type of physical contest the visitors will relish.
The coach said: “We always enjoy playing at home, and played well against Treviso here last season, so we’re looking forward to the match and the opportunity to get our campaign back on the front foot for our home fans.
“Treviso are a strong, physical team and have more than half the Italian national side, so we certainly don’t want to get into an arm wrestle with them.”
With the competition’s leading try scorer Visser looking to add to his tally of seven touchdowns, Bradley wants Edinburgh to play an expansive game. “Our focus will be on retaining our shape and our width and putting pressure on them in the wide channels, something which characterises our style of play,” he added. Despite his side overturning a 17-15 half-time deficit to snatch a last ditch 22-20 victory over Scarlets courtesy of a 50-metre penalty by Alberto Di Bernardo, Treviso coach Franco Smith has made four changes of personnel and shuffled his back division.
Tonight’s referee will be an Italian rookie, Matteo Liperini, who will be taking charge of his first RaboDirect Pro12 match.