Edinburgh Rugby coach Michael Bradley insists his team are waiting to click as they prepare to take on unbeaten RaboDirect Pro 12 leaders Ulster in Belfast tonight.
“It is just about getting over the line on the day,” said Bradley of a team who have lost five out of seven league outings. “We will be fine when we start winning again,” he defiantly insisted.
“It sounds like an excuse, but in the Rabo, of the seven matches we’ve played, only one has been lost by more than one score. One of our two wins was by more than a score and the four we lost by a score we could have won but didn’t.
“We are where we are and have to try harder in terms of getting it right in preparation and on the pitch and when that happens we move on.”
International preparations require Bradley to cast a wider selection net and he said: “Some have been training hard and not getting selected. Let’s see what they can do.”
Edinburgh have to confront Ulster’s Springbok World Cup winning half-back Ruan Pienaar who, in three meetings between the sides last term, including a Heineken European Cup semi-final, garnered 41 points from nine penalties and seven conversions.
Warning his side that discipline is essential Bradley admitted: “Pienaar is quality through and through. On the world stage he is quality.
“We have to be mindful of the quality both Pienaar and (scrum half) Paul Marshall have from both a kicking and running point of view.
“Pienaar can control a game and get them into good positions which can yield pressure.
“Firstly you have to give Ulster respect in terms of the way they have performaned in a way we have not been able to do. But quite a number of changes mean there will be a different feel to their team.
“We are desperate for a win; they are trying to maintain a winning record.
“Hopefully our need will be greater than their’s.”
Among those Bradley puts faith in are the new centre combination of John Houston, making his 50th league start, and fit-again James King.
In the past ‘A’ internationalist Houston has started in tandem with Ben Cairns, Alex Grove, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Dougie Fife and Jim Thompson but plans to field him alongside King were thwarted by a late change in the line-up prior to a match against Cardiff.
“They are both probably natural 12s (inside centres) and we could have put Dougie Fife straight in.
“But we have asked the experienced players to do a job and at Ravenhill the more experience we can get on the pitch the better,” added Bradley. who took in the first half of Edinburgh Accies versus Currie in the Premiership last week before heading off to watch the last 40 minutes of Heriot’s against Gala.
For Houston, there is nothing to be gained by Edinburgh going into their shell.
“Our attitude is that while there is that with a few players away there is nothing to lose by going out and having a crack,” said the player who, in 2009, contributed to Edinburgh’s last victory in Belfast along with Roddy Grant of the starting line-up tonight. Added Houston: “I wasn’t aware it was my 50th start but I do remember going to Ravenhill and getting a win with the help of a Tim Visser try.
“I just hope that the buzz that exists among the players now getting an opportunity can be translated into a win because there is always frustration to come out when you are fit and wanting to play.”
That frustration has been acutely felt by King, who has been out since January with groin trouble.
After a few appearances in the Premiership with Gala, the 26-year-old is reading to go back in at the deep end against opponents who boast a perfect eight victories from as many starts this season, including the European Cup. “The groin problem actually occurred against Ulster and came on out of nowhere,” said King. “I just had to walk off the field and later went down to a top surgeon in Leicester, David Lloyd.
“It hasn’t been the start to the season the team wanted and even if you are not on the field you still feel part of what is going on and share responsibility.
“Now I have a chance to help put things right.
“Ulster are a stuffy team with a good defence and they try to pressurise teams especially through Ruan Pienaar, who can pin teams back.
“A lot of people might be writing us off but there is no chance we are going there to cave in.
“We are looking for a big performance and hopefully that will lead to better things.”