SEAN COX stands alone as the only ever-present in Edinburgh’s eight matches to date. The former Sale Sharks second row, however, insists that the entire squad are united as one, not just in their determination to end a run of five defeats when Scarlets visit Murrayfield in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 on Friday, but in backing tactics laid down by coaches.
Inevitably, questions are being asked about Edinburgh’s approach to matches, which has seen them slip to ninth in the league and also become the only team in European Cup history to go “blankety-blank” due to successive outings without registering a point.
Cox isn’t hiding, though. He’s adamant the blame lies with him and his team-mates.
“It is 100 per cent the players’ responsibility. The coaches are doing their bit the same as they were in the first few weeks when we were going well,” said Cox, who has been standing in as Edinburgh skipper with Greig Laidlaw injured. “We are getting all the information. It’s about keeping hold of the ball in contact. No coaches can give you any extra information or anything revolutionary on that.
“We are just not doing the simple things well and that has to fall at the players’ feet.
“There is a definite guilt with the players at the moment that it might be the coaches that are seen to be responsible when, deep down, it is us who are taking the field and making the mistakes.”
On the general feeling in the dressing-room, Cox admitted: “It’s not a brilliant mood. Not as good as it was a few weeks ago . . . but being in a bad mood is not going to get us anywhere.
“We know the magnitude and importance of the game against Scarlets from a club and a season perspective on Friday night. We have to come together and galvanise as a squad, put the last few weeks behind us, learn from them obviously.
“Friday is massive. Nothing less than a win is acceptable.
“I would not say the league is now our priority when there are still four games left in the Heineken Cup and, even if we can’t qualify, we have a lot of pride to play for.
“We want to justify our position in the tournament and there are a few demons to be expelled against the two teams (Saracens and Munster) we have played already. We’ll be looking forward to playing them in January, but the immediate focus is Scarlets.
“There is a little bit of an edge in the dressing-room. You can feel the boys being really hungry to get this monkey off our back and get back to where we were when we did a very professional job against Zebre here and fought hard against Leinster away.
“We are in a little bit of a rut at the minute, there is no denying it, but there is a definite determination to get out of it.
“There is a little bit of a mongrel mob about the boys – everybody outside the changing rooms is talking about us. We are going to put that to the back of our mind and make sure we take it out on Scarlets.”
One crumb of comfort for Edinburgh in this European campaign lies in having been able to give continental debuts to Robin Hislop, Gregor Hunter, Dougie Fife and Rob McAlpine, while Cox’s regular second row partner, Grant Gilchrist, is now being tipped as a future internationalist.
Cox said: “Grant delivers on the pitch every time he takes the field. He is very easy to play with and all this European experience – good and bad – can only help him.
“Rob McAlpine is a good, athletic line-out forward, a tough lad who puts himself about in training. He’s still young and will develop physically but already he has a decent brain on him for lineout management.
“As for Bomber [Hislop], he is a strong boy and the more experience he can get at top level in the front row, the better. He is one of a modern breed of prop with good hands and a good skill set.
“Some of the young guys were blessed with really good times at the club last year in perhaps their first season of professional rugby, but you learn how good a player you really are when the going gets tough, as it is just now. This is when we see if everyone can recover and pick themselves up. It never gets easier to pick yourself out of the rut because losing becomes an unfortunate habit which it is difficult to break, but that is what we have to do.
Despite Edinburgh’s travails in recent weeks, Cox is enjoying one thing – wearing the armband and leading the team.
“It is a massive honour for me to captain the club when I haven’t been here that long,” he said.
“It helps that there are players such as Nick De Luca and Ross Ford who I can turn to, but we have six, seven, eight even nine boys who could all do the job.
“Now we need all those leaders need to come to the fore and everybody has to be on top of their game on Friday night. We want to get our respect back.”
n EDINBURGH will kit out the first fans to the public bar before Friday’s match with Llanelli Scarlets with free supporter scarves, while club staff will hand out 1500 free flags to fans as they arrive at the ground.