So far as Edinburgh Rugby’s latest starting line-up was concerned, nobody was younger than second row Grant
Gilchrist when they faced
Racing Metro in Paris.
The 22-year-old left more experienced colleagues in the shade with his determination to succeed so far as ex-captain Scott Hastings was concerned. The Scotland legend was in Stade Yves du Manoir, ostensibly as a commentator for the host broadcaster, but the frustration expressed by the ex-Grand Slam centre as he spoke candidly about the team he captained into the inaugural Euro tournament 16 years ago could barely be concealed as he reflected on a spectacular slump from semi-finalists to also-rans who are still to record a try in three outings.
“Last year there were six or seven Edinburgh players gaining high pass marks every time they ran out to play in Europe,” said Hastings, adding, “but the only one I would have marked seven or eight out of ten during the (9-19) defeat by Racing on Saturday was young Gilchrist.
“The team just aren’t getting themselves up for the European challenge and it pains me to say so.”
Hastings knows the hurt that can be involved when those who have worn the jersey point accusing fingers at the present generation, but his criticism clearly stemmed from knowing there is so much more that can be brought out of the current side.
“It was the lack of cutting edge in Paris that really struck – and the fact that it took young Gilchrist to give a lead with his strong ball carrying,” he said.
“Another who made a difference, and certainly to the scrum when he came off the bench, was WP Nel, and I have criticised him before. He produced in the scrum while others players really were left having to look hard at themselves in order to up their performances.
“I also want to see Geoff Cross really taking the ball across the gain-line more than he is doing and while Tim Visser is invariably top try scorer in the Rabo Direct League, he needs to go looking for the ball more than he did in Paris where he was rarely seen in attack.
Coach Michael Bradley appeared to be hoping for a sporting miracle when he remarked over the weekend that there might still be a way into the second-tier Amlin Trophy event. So far as Hastings is concerned that is pie in the sky, but he still believes there is plenty to play for.
“Edinburgh still have a very influential part to play in this season’s Heineken European Cup and I want to see them taking those responsibilities seriously by playing flat out for pride in their three remaining games.”
They await Racing Metro on Friday followed by another home game against Munster and a trip to Saracens in the New Year.
“At their best and showing the form I believe them to be capable of Edinburgh can determine who eventually goes through from the pool,” Hastings went on.
“To do that they have to get back to the level of performance that had 38,000 people pouring into Murrayfield for the quarter-final win over Toulouse last Spring and much of it is to do with maintaining concentration.
“When Edinburgh played their first match in Europe all those years ago we were staring down the barrel of a 75-point defeat at Bath, but we pulled ourselves together to be competitive in the second half, eventually going down 26-55. What’s required now is the same sort of determination.”