Basilaia leaves Edinburgh with his head held high

Dmitri Basilaia feels tiredness was a factor in Edinburgh's loss to Munster. Pic: SNS/SRU
Dmitri Basilaia feels tiredness was a factor in Edinburgh's loss to Munster. Pic: SNS/SRU
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Nobody sums up the roller-coaster Edinburgh Rugby season better than Dmitri Basilaia.

The 28-year-old Georgian back rower was among 11 of the latest squad who, last October, defeated Munster 29-23 in a Heineken European Cup pool tie.

Unsurprisingly, Basilaia lists that success as the highlight of a two-year stint in the Capital now coming to an end as his contract expires and he prepares to move on, almost certainly to a French club.

Fast forward six months, though, and all that early Euro promise has long disappeared as a rag-tag Edinburgh suffered a record home defeat, 12-55, at the hands of an even weaker (on paper at least) Munster team who at least paid the compliment of keeping a foot on the gas long after the four-try bonus point was secured.

“What went wrong? Maybe it was tiredness with all the games that have been played,” said Basilaia who, nevertheless, can depart with head held high as he reflects particularly on two defiant bursts after coming off the bench at 12-34 with 15 minutes remaining.

“I’m very happy that I was in Edinburgh. I have improved my rugby,” he added.

To trace the real peak of Basilaia’s 2013-14 campaign, though, means re-uniting him with the coach who brought him to Edinburgh, Michael Bradley. The ex-Ireland scrum-half has helped steer Georgia into the 2015 rugby World Cup finals.

Clearly, rugby life exists for Bradley beyond being crudely removed from office at Edinburgh with months of the season remaining and less than a year after guiding the team to the unprecedented high of a European Cup semi-final.

“Michael Bradley is our defence coach and he helps Georgian rugby very much,” said Basilaia, adding: “We are very happy to have a coach like Michael. Everybody respects him in Georgia.

“He does a big job and has moved on well from Edinburgh.”

Only the feeble-hearted would begrudge Bradley a bright rugby future – and what a future.

“We will be in a pool with New Zealand – a dream to face the All Blacks,” says Basilaia, capped 30 times. To qualify, Georgia put together a run beating Belgium, Portugal, Russia and Romania and Basilaia had to battle through injury.

Explaining his absences from the Edinburgh ranks since October, he said: “I had a groin problem which required two injections and broke a bone in my hand.

“Now, within two weeks, I should know where my new club will be,” added the man who was a member of the Georgia side which went down 15-6 to Scotland at the previous World Cup, in Invercargill. Their gain could be Edinburgh’s loss.