ROSS RENNIE believes that re-entering the charged atmosphere of Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium this weekend can lift his Edinburgh Rugby side every bit as much as the home team.
Edinburgh will travel knowing that they are in the Last Chance Saloon so far as Heineken European Cup qualification is concerned and only a win might assist in reaching even the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup, never mind the knock-out stages of the blue riband event.
In refusing to accept all is lost, though, one-club Test flanker Rennie, 27, drew on experience gained on only his third competition appearance, at Gloucester in 2006, to strike an upbeat note.
“I was in the last Edinburgh team to visit Gloucester and it is a great place to play,” he said. “It’s fun to play there because the occasion can lift both teams.
“It makes games better having good crowds in a real rugby heartland and that can help us as well,” said Rennie who, but for injuries, would have significantly more than 24 Euro appearances on his CV
Rennie, whose current colleague Alasdair Dickinson also started that previous visit with Greig Laidlaw on the bench, is adamant he is working his way back well to full fitness after a seasonal debut was delayed by shoulder surgery.
A 57-minute stint against Gloucester was marginally his longest run-out of the four he has so far undertaken and it was the quality of the opposition that has helped to make him more battle-hardened – as well as the soft Murrayfield pitch which put a premium on stamina.
“My fitness is going up with every outing; that pitch was horrible, like a sand pit,” he said. “I just need to get more games under my belt, but playing against an English Premiership side is a step up physically and a slightly different type of fitness requirement.
“That game was very open, but very attritional too. We don’t often play Premiership sides and they were good at the attritional stuff, messing ball up in rucks especially.
“It is a different style; we have to learn fast this week and particularly how to look after ball better.”
The Six Nations is now only a couple of months away, but Rennie, capped 20 times, is not setting any targets despite acknowledging the physicality test he has just come through.
“We started well against Gloucester (at Murrayfield) and for our first try held the ball through four or five phases to carve them up,” he added.
“That is the lesson and the positive we take, but we need to look after the ball, get over the gain-line and get some good phases together, then give Greig (Laidlaw) some good ball from carrying well in order to cause damage.
“If we cut our error count, get our kick-chase right and defensive line better we can definitely improve.
“It is going to be hugely difficult, though. They are a big, stuffy side with a quick back three.”
One of the architects of Edinburgh’s downfall was full-back Rob Cook, who once lined up against Currie for Cornish Pirates in the B&I Cup.
“I don’t think we managed them that well and our defensive line had too many gaps, too many holes,” said Rennie.
“If you let them get on the front foot you get punished and the number of chaos (broken play) turnovers against us were through the roof. You are never going to beat a classy side like that.
“I am very annoyed that I didn’t feel I got into game at all. It wasn’t what I would have liked. It was frustrating not to be around the ball very much and always be a bit further away. An odd kind of game.
“However, it’s great to be back and the big thing for me is I still care.
“After long periods out – and this has been the hardest – you come back not sure how you feel. The emotions I am now feeling post and pre-game and about really wanting to play are still there and very, very strong.
“I’m still very keen to be better and keep playing for Edinburgh.”