While attention has centred – rightly – on the youthfulness of revived Edinburgh Rugby, their club captain, Greig Laidlaw, today highlighted the contribution of one elder statesman as key to a winning Heineken European Cup start.
Edinburgh’s resurgence will be tested further tomorrow night when tackling French cracks Racing Metro at Murrayfield. But at the heart of the line-up is expected to be Allan Jacobsen almost 12 years to the day since the man known as “Chunk” made a tournament debut from off the bench.
Coincidentally that was against another French side, Grenoble, on November 19, 1999 and despite being a veteran with Edinburgh the 33-year-old prop’s enthusiasm has strengthened in the weeks since returning from the World Cup with Scotland, says Laidlaw.
“Chunk is as hungry for rugby as he has ever been and really keen to push on and do things while he still has time. It’s great for me and the younger lads to hear that. Somebody like Chunk leads from the front and, since he is not a man of many words, when he does speak everybody listens.”
The message from Laidlaw is that Scotland’s inability to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time has left those returning determined to re-assert themselves in club colours.
Among that group is Ross Ford who actually had the armband for last week’s win at London Irish and who dovetailed well with Laidlaw once the youngster had joined the fray from the bench. Ross is not only a great leader but some who does his job every week,” added Laidlaw. “I really have sensed an even greater edge among those who have returned from the World Cup.”
With Chris Paterson not included in Edinburgh’s squad as he continues to battle a groin injury, the way is clear not only for Jacobsen to equal his colleague’s 64 Heineken Cup appearances (Paterson had six for Gloucester) but also for Laidlaw to be front line goal-kicker.
Laidlaw’s emergence last week not only provided impact after Mike Blair had helped soften up the Exiles but took pressure off 19-year-old Harry Leonard in terms of goal-kicking, and a conversion and penalty down the home straight sealed Edinburgh’s win.
“My dad (a former goal-kicker with Jed-Forest) always said I should keep practising even though Chris Paterson is an inspiration in that department and at times the best in the world.
“Dad always said goal-kicking was a useful tool to have in my box and any success I have helps me enjoy my rugby even more,” said Laidlaw who, surprisingly, had only kicked once previously for Edinburgh in Europe, a three pointer in the away defeat by Castres last season.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh were today waiting to see if Sean Cox would be available for the match, the forward attending a disciplinary hearing in Dublin following a citing against London Irish.