Connacht v Edinburgh Rugby: The role new rugby consultant Steve Diamond will play and why it is a huge game for the visitors

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Edinburgh Rugby must end Connacht’s winning streak and their own losing run if they are to have any chance of making the United Rugby Championship play-offs.

That’s the challenge facing Mike Blair’s team at The Sportsground in Galway on Saturday. Kick-off is 3pm. Edinburgh are currently down in 12th in the in the 16-team league, seven points adrift of Connacht after three successive defeats. There are three rounds of fixtures remaining and they need to finish in the top eight to qualify for the play-offs.

It’s a tall order. They have lost seven of their last eight URC games, shipping over 40 points in each of the last two, but this will be their first outing since the appointment of former Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond as “lead rugby consultant” until the end of this season.

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Head coach Mike Blair, who is leaving at the end of the season, said this week that he and Diamond had discussed how they can turn things around, pointing out that Edinburgh have picked up six losing bonus points this season, meaning they have lost half a dozen matches by seven points or fewer. “We’ve looked at stats that he uses to measure where teams are at, and in those stats we are sitting pretty high – in play-off places or above on most of those stats,” said Blair. “We’re not far off, we’re doing lots of good things. It’s not broken, we just need to find a ruthless edge – when we get on top of teams, put them away.”

Steve Diamond has joined Edinburgh as 'lead rugby analyst' and will work alongside head coach Mike Blair. Picture: David Rogers/GettySteve Diamond has joined Edinburgh as 'lead rugby analyst' and will work alongside head coach Mike Blair. Picture: David Rogers/Getty
Steve Diamond has joined Edinburgh as 'lead rugby analyst' and will work alongside head coach Mike Blair. Picture: David Rogers/Getty

He added: “He’s here to help, be another ear, give us observations and use his experience to help me and the other coaches, and our leadership group, to finish the season on a high,” Blair said of Diamond. “My understanding and Steve’s understanding is that we are working together, using our own individual skill-sets to get the best out of the group. He’s come in to be another eye, be a sounding board, give his observations and opinions to enable us to win games.”

Edinburgh will welcome some – but not all – of their Scotland players back from international duty for the trip to Ireland. Their participation will depend on how much game-time they had during the Six Nations. Diamond will have a say in team selection for this weekend and beyond. “It will be a joint discussion,” Blair confirmed. “With Steve coming in just this week, we’ve had conversations about it, but it’s the same as me with the assistant coaches. I don’t just say, ‘this is the team’. We have a conversation then we make a decision. Steve will be another opinion that joins that thinking pot.”

Eighth-placed Connacht will be feeling the chasing pack breathing down their necks, with six sides within ten points of them as the play-off race enters the final straight. However, they are a team in form, having won their last four league matches, seeing off the Cell C Sharks, Emirates Lions, Zebre Parma and Dragons RFC to shoot up the table.