Edinburgh RUGBY coach Michael Bradley admits there will be no room for sentiment when he leads his new charges into Rabo Direct Pro 12 league action against former team Connacht at Murrayfield tomorrow.
Bradley was director of rugby at Connacht from 2003 until 2010 and, following a year out during which he assisted the Georgian national side, took on his present role with Edinburgh during the summer.
Making it clear business comes before renewing old acquaintances, ex-Ireland scrum half Bradley said: “It is a competitive match for both sides. We are under pressure to get a win.”
The contrast in fortunes between the two sides so far could not be more stark.
While Connacht have burst out of the traps, as befits a side who play at the Galway greyhound stadium, to post back-to-back wins against Treviso and Scarlets, Edinburgh have managed just a single point (a losing bonus) from their encounters with Cardiff and Ospreys.
With typical candour, Bradley said of last weekend’s defeat at Ospreys: “We were in a position to win having fought very hard to stay in the game . . . and then to blow it at the last minute . . . it was naive of us. We have to start winning matches and this weekend is as good a time as any.”
At the same time, Bradley knows better than most the threat from Connacht and he highlighted the opposition dangermen, saying: “They have started well with two wins but, hopefully, as the Meat Loaf song goes, ‘two out of three ain’t bad’, and we get the winning off to a start in our season.
“It’s important we do but it will be a tight game. Connacht haven’t really lost anybody of note to the World Cup and they have a very strong back five in [Mike] McCarthy, [Michael] Swift, George Naoupu, [Ray] Ofisa and [John] Muldoon.
“They are quality players who would be good enough for any side, and there is Frank Murphy at half back and Gavin Duffy at full back also to consider.”
A feature of tomorrow’s clash will be the battle of wits between Bradley and Connacht mentor Eric Elwood.
The pair formed a half-back combination for Ireland during playing days and also coached together at Connacht.
Bradley clearly has plenty of respect for Elwood. “I played with Eric and have coached with him at Connacht; I have a lot of good friends within the organisation,” he said. The Edinburgh boss, however, puts the emphasis on his own squad, rather than Connacht’s or their manager, for which a number of talented youngsters in their debut seasons have so far made good impressions.
“Steve Lawrie came back and Sean Cox has also done very well. Chris Leck has had an outstanding pre-season. What has been most impressive is the young lads – Gregor Hunter, Matt Scott and Tom Brown, for example,” said Bradley. “They will add a lot of backbone which is good to see for the future of Edinburgh Rugby.”
Many were surprised to see Scott utilised at centre against Cardiff compared to the stand off role in which he represented Currie and Scotland under-20s but Bradley maintained: “Matt is physically a big lad with fantastic footwork and he has an eye for cutting a good angle. These are all attributes that point to playing at either 10, 12 or 13.”
Bradley was also asked if is there an element of frustration at having to play Connacht while Edinburgh have so many players on World Cup duty. Not so, according to the coach, who insists: “It’s 22 matches in the Rabo Direct pro 12. You have to play everybody twice. We play them outside of the international window next time.”