Scottish rugby’s newest internationalists were today tipped to return for the Guinness Pro 12 run-in with an extra spring in their steps, starting for Edinburgh at Scarlets tomorrow.
Coincidentally, the only players blooded by national coach Vern Cotter during this year’s Six Nations Championship were all from Edinburgh – Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Ben Toolis and Hamish Watson.
All three are expected to be named today and Greig Tonks drew on his experience of a first cap on tour back in 2013 to insist: “Ben, Sam and Hamish should be feeling confident having been up to the next level. Being there makes you appreciate coming back to the club.
“They should be more confident in themselves especially as they deservedly got capped. Hopefully there will be a spring in their step to show when they were selected by Scotland.”
Ironically it is a player that Scotland overlooked who is figuring large in Edinburgh’s preparations – Scarlets’ former Glasgow flanker, John Barclay.
“John has been involved with Scotland a lot and will probably enjoy being involved against Scottish teams,” said Tonks with a hint of understatement.
As Tonks also acknowledged eighth place Edinburgh are putting their hopes of a top-six place that would guarantee an immediate return to the premier Champions Cup very much on the line against opponents one point ahead.
None of the top five teams in the table have managed victories at Parc y Scarlets and Tonks added: “Scarlets have a very good record at home. This is going to be especially tough. They’ve beaten some big teams and drew with us at BT Murrayfield although that was a match we should have won.”
Certainly, Tom Heathcote had a chance to claim the win with a last-gasp penalty from halfway which fell short but this was a game where Edinburgh conceded a try in just 44 seconds and spent much of the proceedings in catch up mode having to come from 3-15.
Tonks added: “This is a very big match between two teams in the middle of the table with plenty to gain. What I am starting to notice more and more having had more international experience with Scotland recently is that the teams who are most clinical and make the least amount of errors win games.
“You can’t afford to make several mistakes and win but we do go in with momentum from posting a bonus point victory at Treviso last time out.”
Adding to Edinburgh’s potential difficulties is the fact that four caps – Matt Scott, Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and Dougie Fife – will be rested as they recover from a bruising finale to the Six Nations series afer defeat by Ireland.
Tonks revealed that all Edinburgh’s international contingent wasted no time this week getting back to club duties.
“As the last Scotland match was a disappointing one it was quite easy to focus on Edinburgh because that was the next important game.
“It was pretty much straight back in as we couldn’t afford to dwell on Scotland stuff too much. Not everybody played against Treviso last time and there have been some new calls and new plays introduced.
“It’s been a question of getting up to date and as soon as the Scotland game was over it was a matter of re-focusing because there is such a lot to do at Edinburgh.”
Tomorrow’s match evokes memories for Ben Toolis of one of Edinburgh’s biggest league wins of the season so far. “Coming back from Scotland I’m feeling really fresh and as for the team we definitely need to win this one. If we don’t we need a few other results to go our way. But we were in a tough position a few months ago when Connacht hadn’t lost at home there and we went to Galway and got a win.”
If Edinburgh are to win they will have to update recent history having posted their last victory in Wales away to Newport Gwent Dragons at the tail end of 2013-14.
The Welshmen are unbeaten at home in their last 13 league matches in a run stretching back to Boxing Day 2013 and Edinburgh’s only victory in their last nine encounters with Scarlets was 26-23 at Murrayfield in March 2012.