Offer Edinburgh stars therapy with test call

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With Scotland rugby coach Andy Robinson naming his squad tomorrow for a training camp ahead of next month’s Autumn Test series, all those with the best interests of Capital rugby at heart must be hoping he keeps the faith in Edinburgh players – not least for therapeutic 
reasons.

Because, in a run of 
fixtures dating back to the start of this year’s Six Nations Rugby Championship, Edinburgh have provided more than half Scotland’s starting line-up on three 
occasions with a minimum of five representatives (once only).

Going into the opening two rounds of the Heineken European Cup, the pledge from Edinburgh was consistency; they’ve certainly achieved that, though not in the way they would have wanted with back-to-back whitewashes unprecedented in competition history and surpassing the measly three points garnered by Italian makeweights, Parma, when going down 36-0 at Northampton followed by a 45-3 hammering at Biarritz in 2006-07.

So, the need for the nucleus of an Edinburgh squad to experience a change of scenery and some fresh voices may well be as good as a rest after collective performances which have been more reminiscent of Open golf gatecrasher Maurice Flitcroft than Frankel the wonder horse . . . except that it is world champions New Zealand who loom on November 11 followed six days later by the mighty South Africans.

Given Edinburgh’s displays of late Robinson might be forgiven turning his attentions almost entirely elsewhere; that would be particularly harsh on a couple of uncapped hopefuls as well as Tim Visser whose eight touchdowns account for exactly half the tally accumulated in all 
outings so far.

Provided he shakes off the knee injury which forced a late withdrawal from Sunday’s visit to Munster, Visser will be a shoo-in to fulfil a goal of representing Scotland at Murrayfield to add to the two caps achieved on the summer tour of the South Seas.

What, though, of the two Edinburgh players seemingly within touching distance of Test debuts? Step forward Stuart McInally, whose form in the back row hints at looking and learning all the way through that summer sojourn when he was a late addition to the party, while Greg Tonks has lived up to the star billing provided by ex-international captain Colin Deans when he signed for Edinburgh – Deans being a close follower of this utility back’s emergence at the Northampton club he once helped coach.

To recap Deans told the Evening News back in March: “Greig will be a real bonus for Edinburgh. Any time I have seen him he has impressed. Greig is one of those guys who you think, ‘Why hasn’t he been getting more regular games?’ and then you remember [England internationalist] Ben Foden is at the same 
club and it becomes more understandable.”

“After probably being at the wrong club at the wrong time with Foden around, 
I suspect all he needs is 
regular game time.

“Utility value means he can play in any of the back three as well as centre or stand off. There are some class players in Edinburgh’s back line, but he won’t look out of place.

Wise words but with Glasgow also still to collect a point in Europe Robinson is faced with the prospect of seeking the proverbial diamond in a domestic dustbin and nowhere is the paucity of resources more apparent than at tight head prop where injuries and Euan Murray’s unwillingness to play on Sundays has left Geoff Cross virtually unchallenged unless the radical step is taken to call up Bruce Douglas, who was restricted to bench duty for Bristol at the weekend but has 43 caps to draw on, albeit the last of them in 2006.

More likely is that Robinson will mothball Cross and extend a welcome to a player who fell out of favour in the back row last season, Johnnie Beattie, who appears to have been re-invigorated by a switch to Montpellier, while Kelly Brown’s recovery from a broken ankle means a captaincy rival for Edinburgh hooker Ross Ford.

Scotland upset the odds during the summer and fingers and toes will be crossed they can rediscover the same formula over the next few weeks, not least because victories are essential to climb into the top eight and ensure a pool two seeding when the draw for the 2015 World Cup is made in early December.