EDINBURGH RUGBY star Roddy Grant has warned colleagues to be on guard against a London Irish side determined to rain on the Heineken European Cup qualifying parade tomorrow at Murrayfield.
The Exiles head north with only pride to play for whereas Edinburgh stand on the threshold of a place in the last eight of Northern Hemisphere’s blue riband club competition for only the second time with a win likely to be a sufficient passport.
But Grant acknowledges that every team has to find ways gaining motivation and one of them can be to act as party poopers.
“Whenever you play you are never going to come up against opponents who want to lose or can’t be bothered winning,” said the flanker, adding: “There’s a lot at stake for ourselves and this will be the biggest game for me among many memorable ones for various teams.
“At the end of the day, both teams will want to win and not just Edinburgh.”
Key for 25-year-old A international Grant, whose presence at open-side is highly significant in that he has been preferred to a rival ahead of him at Test level, Ross Rennie, by being included in the Scotland Six Nations squad, will be handling the occasion as well as a team lying fifth in the English Premiership. “You have to be in the right mental state and can’t be over-eager or else you over-run things or you over-think things. There’s got to be a balanced approach which also means having desire and knowing exactly when to dig deep and when to impose ourselves and commit to tackles and carries. “
One lesson Edinburgh have had reinforced in this campaign is that games can never be regarded as secure until the final whistle after the way they recovered a 24-point deficit to beat Racing Metro.
“In the Heineken Cup you always expect things will be tight and we can draw on is the fact that we have learned to pull wins out of the fire.
“That type of knowledge can serve to keep you going. Above all though we need to remember to enjoy ourselves and relish the fact it is games like this with a big prize at the end that we train for and hope to play in.
“You play your best regardless of he sport when you are enjoying yourself.”
“Getting an extra day to prepare has been important with us playing eight days ago and London Irish in action last Saturday.
“It is definitely a boost for me to be starting but competition with Ross (Rennie) has been part of what has been driving us both on.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position and given ourselves a chance to qualify. Now it is about taking that chance. After getting off to a good start and developing momentum we’ve played well and our style has been good with backs scoring and forwards managing things on the physical side and long may that continue by merging into more good performance.
“And that for me has been the highlight of this campaign – just coming through the group to reach this stage in with a chance of qualifying.”
While many see Grant and Rennie impress many followers as similar types to the shrewd eye of coach Michael Bradley the switch offers a slightly different approach that might just make the difference in catching out London Irish.
Says Bradley: “Roddy is a quality player and an effective player who deserves a starting spot.
“He and Ross have different attributes as well as strengths in slightly different areas and are not as similar as you might think.”
Bradley has also paid tribute to his fellow coaches Tom Smith and Bill McGinty.
Smith is a double British Lion while defence coach McGinty, also a Scot, had a distinguished rugby league career in an outstanding Wigan team.
“Tom, Billy and I are in constant communication which is on-going every day. Tom has great experience of playing side of things and brings a bit of stature and knowlege to the game as does Billy,” says Bradley.
While Grant for Rennie is Edinburgh’s only change London Irish make six alterations from the team which lost to Cardiff last week with former Capital scrum half Ross Samson on the bench alongside wannabe Scotland back Steve Shingler whose eligibility is being reviewed at International Board level.
Exiles coach Toby Booth also keeps faith with 18-year-old flanker David Sisi who debuted in the Heineken Cup last week.
Says Booth: “We play every game to win it and this weekend is no exception. We will go to Edinburgh this weekend to be competitive and look to come away with a result.”
Meanwhile, a prize pot of £366,000 awaits each of the Heineken Cup qualifiers but Edinburgh coach Bradley admitted: “I wasn’t even aware there was money at stake for qualifying.”
Of more concern is the fact of the four games London Irish have lost all have been by a single score margin.