Sean Cox is urging Edinburgh Rugby colleagues to grab the chance of much-needed momentum in their final match before entering another Heineken European Cup.
Edinburgh head for Cardiff in the RaboDirect Pro12 tomorrow knowing that while recent results have been chequered with a single win from four starts, at least history is on their side.
The corresponding fixture last season produced Edinburgh’s only victory in their last 16 visits to Wales and stakes have been raised by the imminence of Europe’s blue riband tournament.
“It is massively important to get momentum going into the Heineken European Cup and that was something we missed out on last year, when we lost to Dragons and Treviso immediately beforehand,” said Cox, adding: “At the same time we have to concentrate on what is in front of us at the Arms Park ground which gave us one or our few good memories last year. What comes afterwards, comes afterwards.
“It’s going to be one long season, after all, and we are still in that building phase looking to improve our performances week in, week out, regardless of the competition.”
Much has been made of the fact that new coach Alan Solomons’ late arrival from South African Super-15 team, Southern Kings, has seen Edinburgh play catch-up in terms of preparations but second row Cox, who will make his 71st appearance for a team he joined from Sale Sharks in 2011, says: “All coaches have different ideas but most of their principals are the same. The boys are finding it an exciting place because we do feel after training sessions we are getting a little bit better, a litle bit quicker, a little bit more up to speed with all the systems and stategy. It is all about laying that on to a weekend performance so everybody else can see where we are at.”
Much has been made of the fact that Edinburgh have undertaken more of a kicking game this season under Solomons in looking to establish territorial advantages before opening out.
Given that Edinburgh teams have long been renowned for their handling abilities does that make taking on board a new approach more difficult?
“You can use a kicking game as an attacking weapon as well,” insists Cox, adding “it does not have to have negative connotations. Look at what (unbeaten Aviva Premiership leaders) Saracens are doing at the moment – they have actually perfected a kicking game.
“Besides, if we get the right results it doesn’t matter what system we use, whether it be kicking or whether we are the rugby equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team as long as we get the right results.”
Adding to Edinburgh’s task is the return of Lions Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins to a team who, like the visitors, have won just once so far in the league.
“Cardiff have a very dangerous back three with Halfpenny and Cuthbert in their ranks while (stand off) Rhys Patchell has a massive boot so we know our discipline has to be spot on,” says Cox who also highlights the threat posed by one of Cardiff’s less-celebrated individuals.
“Sam Warburton is well known but another of their flankers, Josh Navidi, is very effective, too; we have to be really clinical at the breakdown.”
To help counter the Blues in that area Edinburgh give a first start to Tomas Leonardi, one of two Argentinian newcomers in the line-up along with trialist centre Joaquin Dominguez. “The Argentinians have picked up things really quickly and are both good students of the game.
“They’re up to speed with all the calls and will be looking to impress not only the coaching staff but players around them,” added Cox.
Adding to a relatively new-look Edinburgh match day squad will be South African flanker Cornell du Preez who flew in this week and starts on the bench.