Edinburgh Rugby coach Michael Bradley has conceded that his team’s heaviest home defeat in Heineken European Cup rugby – when they crashed 45-0 to Saracens last weekend – has caused him to lose sleep.
The result has left Edinburgh aiming to become only the second team in tournament history, behind tomorrow’s opponents Munster, to qualify for the knockout stages after opening with a defeat on their own patch.
And as he prepared to lead Edinburgh on a tournament rescue mission tomorrow against the Munster team he represented as a player Bradley said of the Sarries shocker: “It was a difficult result to put to bed and not a lot of sleep was had over the weekend. The debrief was a long, hard day for everyone but you have to move on.”
Among those introduced with a view to getting Edinburgh back on track is international prop, Geoff Cross, who admitted there will be a need to overcome a slightly new-look style from two-times European champions Munster.
“They are playing slightly differently, a little more of an open game,” said Cross. “Recently we have seen Munster play a little bit differently, a little bit less kicking. It will be interesting to see if they continue to play like that.”
Edinburgh have never won a European tie in Ireland after drawing at Ulster and Leinster in the past and Bradley’s view that teams who go to Munster bent on containment and hoping to snatch a bonus point rarely succeed is endorsed by 29-year-old Cross, who said: “Our focus is on preparing to beat Munster, something I believe we can do.
“It is very important we look at executing our basic skills.
“(Against Saracens) we created 11 opportunities to score and took none.
“Also, there was a lot of stuff in defence we did well but all that good work was undone by simple individual errors.
“The important thing now, because we can’t change what has gone, is to beat Munster this week.
“If we prepare well and play to the best of our ability the team we have at Edinburgh can win against any opposition.
“Munster, in respect of competitions, are in a similar position to where we are; they haven’t won the games they have wanted to.
“There are two points separating us in the Rabo Direct pro league and one point separates us in Heineken Cup.
“The big threat Munster traditionally have is the control and structure they have in their game. They have physical forwards and a kicker that will give them position.
“We have to be ready for that.”
Cross is one of five changes to the starting line-up having seen a run of 13 European starts interrupted by a seat on the bench last week.
Others introduced are Ben Atiga, Greig Tonks, Gregor Hunter and Netani Talei, and for Cross there is the added incentive of nailing down a Scotland place for next month’s opening Autumn Test against New Zealand when main rival Euan Murray will be unavailable on religious grounds because the tie is being played on a Sunday. Also Moray Low is currently injured.
“All my focus is on doing well for Edinburgh,” insisted Cross. “Saracens was a game where I wanted to come on and make a positive difference.
“By the time I came on (62 minutes) there was lots to do. I was frustrated that the subs didn’t make the impact I wanted us to make as a group. I am looking forward to starting this week.”
The lack of impact was reflected in Edinburgh being shut out at home for the first time at European level in a situation that hurt acutely according to the normally prolific try scorer, Tim Visser.
Scotland wing Visser said: “It is tough to be blanked, especially an attacking team like ourselves. We did create chances but didn’t finish them off.”
Summing up the past week, Bradley added: “Everybody is hurting so the challenge is to get a positive reaction.”
Asked about the likely impact of the tournament’s top scorer, Ronan O’Gara, being missing from Munster ranks due to injury Bradley immediately pointed to the loss of the Irishman’s Edinburgh counterpart Greig Laidlaw who featured in a 2006 Thomond Park league win as did currently injured prop Allan Jacobsen.
“There will be two young outside halves (stand offs – Gregor Hunter and Iain Keatley) with a bit of pressure on them so we’ll see what happens.”
As for Munster’s evolving style Bradley said: “They have a great tradition in tournaments and you have to admire Munster for taking the step they have in terms of the style. They are going to play with the possibility of losing games but the end game for them is the correct one.
“They needed to change and they are doing that.”
Meanwhile, in addition to Laidlaw, others dropping out of Edinburgh’s line-up are Tom Brown, Matt Scott, Willem Nel and Ross Rennie.
“We recognise where Munster’s strengths are and wanted to beef up the pack where we could and one of the ways was with a fairly lumpy back row,” added Bradley. “I can’t remember when Edinburgh last beat Munster at Thomond Park – it has been a long time – so we might as well roll the dice on that one.
“Ross Rennie had a fine game last week so it is not down to performance; it is just where we see our opportunity.
“Normally when you go to Thomond Park you expect them to tuck the ball up the jersey and you don’t see it for 80 minutes. Now that doesn’t seem to be the case. My logic with Munster is a lot of sides go there for a bonus point and just about hanging in. It is the wrong psyche. You have to take Munster on.”