Edinburgh Rugby coach Alan Solomons is demanding a step up in quality of performance when his side open their European Challenge Cup campaign against French Top 14 outfit Grenoble at BT Murrayfield tonight (kick-off 7.30pm).
Edinburgh delivered a sub-par showing in last weekend’s Guinness PRO12 defeat by Munster – the third successive league loss – and Solomons believes that a switch of attention to the cup, in which Edinburgh were beaten finalists last season, could be the key to sparking an upturn in results.
“The important thing for us is that we need to get our performance right. We didn’t play that well last week. We played with plenty of attitude but our decision making was poor, our catch/pass skills were poor, our lineout didn’t function that well, but I would say it was probably our decision making that cost us a game we should have won,” said Solomons. “It’s probably not a bad thing that the focus shifts a little bit onto a different competition. I think that could be a positive but we need to get our performance right.”
There is no doubt that the Capital men are giving the competition their full attention, with Solomons making only three changes to the side which started lasted weekend.
“We have put out a pretty decent side. If you take into account the available players we can field at the moment, this is a pretty strong team,” added the coach.
Dougie Fife starts at full back in place of Blair Kinghorn, who moves to the bench alongside Chris Dean, now recovered from injury and replacing Andries Strauss, while John Hardie starts his first game for the club in place of Hamish Watson.
Alasdair Dickinson’s selection at loosehead means the 32-year-old will make his 100th Edinburgh appearance in his two stints with the club – his 49th since returning from a spell south of the Border.
He too is relishing the challenge of the European tournament, saying: “You feel the league is your day job but when it comes to Europe you try to get out of the pool and then whatever happens after that is knockout rugby. I think it is quite good as a psychological shift. The focus point is different. We have got to take confidence from our run last year.”
Hardie, whose performances for Scotland at the World Cup underlined his attributes, has impressed Solomons since moving to the Capital.
“John is ready to play. He has had two weeks with the squad, he does have the experience of the World Cup. I think that international experience is probably the best experience he has had, albeit he has played a lot of Super Rugby games,” said Solomons. “He has got a terrific work ethic and he is very intelligent and very professional about knowing exactly what he has got to do. He is a guy who just gets on with it. He is not a talker on the field, he lets deeds do the talking.”
Grenoble coach Fabrice Landreau has selected a strong squad and insists that a run in the competition is high on his list of targets for the season.
“Last season it wasn’t one of our principal objectives,” he said “We rested some players and that cost us because they lost their rhythm. We don’t want to commit the same errors. Everybody will be playing, especially the established players. This competition is a very high level and it will stand us in good stead for the Top 14.”
The visitors will be without front line players Jonathan Wisniewski and Gio Aplon, who are out injured, No. 8 Rory Grice and lock Hendrick Root are rested. That has created opportunities for youngsters, tight head Kevin Goze, hooker Loick Jammes and full back Clement Gelin. Sscrum-half Christophe Loustalot returns from injury from an eight week injury-enforced absence.
Edinburgh Rugby: D Fife, D Hoyland, W Helu, M Scott, T Brown, G Tonks, S Hidalgo-Clyne, A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel, A Bresler, A Toolis, M Coman, J Hardie, C Du Preez
Subs: N Cochrane, R Sutherland, J Andress, N Manu, H Watson, S Kennedy, B Kinghorn, C Dean
Grenoble: Clement Gelin, Tino Nemani, Chris Farrell, Jackson Willison, Daniel Kilioni, Gilles Bosch, James Hart (c), Fabien Barcella, Loick Jammes, Kevin Goze, ames Percival, Mathias Marie, Mahamadou Diaby, Fabien Alexandre, Dylan Hayes. Subs: Arnaud Heguy, Sona Taumalolo, Walter Desmaison, Ben Hand, Steven Setephano, Christophe Loustalot, Xavier Mignot, Lucas Dupont.