Solomons: ‘Fantastic’ Gilchrist has heart of Lyon

Grant Gilchrist. Picture: SNS/SRU
Grant Gilchrist. Picture: SNS/SRU
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Edinburgh Rugby coach Alan Solomons has heaped praise on second rower Grant Gilchrist who leads the Capital outfit into European Challenge Cup Pool 4 action against Lyon at BT Murrayfield tonight (kick-off 7.45pm).

Gilchrist – who was this week named as Scotland skipper for the viagogo Autumn International Test Series – deputises for club captain Mike Coman who suffered an ankle injury in last week’s victory over Bordeaux-Begles in France.

“He took over the side when Mike went off and I thought he did a magnificent job,” said Solomons. “Clearly he is a good captain, there is no question about that, and I can fully understand Vern giving him the honour of leading Scotland because he did a very good job on the summer tour and he wants some continuity there.

“I think he is a fantastic player, he leads by example. I think he is a good guy. He has got the respect of the players so I think he has a very bright future ahead of him.”

Solomons underlined Gilchrist’s effective leadership attributes, adding: “He has a very hard edge. He is a very straight man, he calls it as it is and he is well respected. He is a good bloke and I am really sure that he is going to do well in these autumn internationals.

“I am sure he will do a good job, not only of leading the side but also as a player. I think he speaks intelligently and he leads from the front.”

Gilchrist is now back to full fitness, having returned from injury in last month’s Guinness PRO12 draw with Llanelli Scarlets at BT Murrayfield before starting against Ulster then following up with telling contributions in the wins over Newport Gwent Dragons and Bordeaux.

Solomons plans to have a similarly programmed return to action for Dave Denton, who has his first involvement with the matchday squad this season when he starts on the bench tonight. Denton, who missed Scotland’s summer tour then tore a hamstring on the second day of pre-season training, has an eye on forcing his way into consideration for the second of the autumn tests.

“Getting back in the Scotland squad is huge to me,” he said, “That’s obviously a big goal for me. If I can come off the bench and get a good 40-minute shift, I can start looking towards the New Zealand game.”

Solomons has remained loyal to the men who delivered a win brimming with character in France. The only alteration to the starting 15 is in the back row. Roddy Grant, who replaced Coman last Friday, starts at blind side with Tomas Leonardi occupying the No. 8 berth.

The coach believes Coman could come back into the reckoning for the match at home to Cardiff Blues in late November, while the length of the absence of fellow back row man Cornell Du Preez should become clearer over the coming days after he underwent a full assessment yesterday. Solomons insists that last week’s result has given a timely boost to his players, and he wants a repeat tonight.

“It has generated a certain amount of confidence and you can see that. We need to perform well and that confidence helps,” he added. “The win last week with everything that went with it – I thought that was an exceptional win.”

And, in assessing the challenge that lies ahead against a team that started the Challenge Cup campaign with a bonus point win over London Welsh, Solomons said: “Any Top 14 team is a good team. To back up last week’s result would be fantastic for us.

“Lyon tend to be very attack orientated. They look more like a tempo side and a ball-in-hand type of side.”

The French outfit’s coach, Tim Lane, has rotated his squad, handing first appearances of the season to hooker Damien Fitzpatrick and Mickael de Marco, and listing youngsters Adrien Bau and Didier Tison in the squad for the first time. Coenie Basson returns in the second row after a month out through injury and captains the side.