DIMITRi BASILAIA has revealed he is battling a groin problem in order to give Edinburgh Rugby coach Alan Solomons the option of fielding an unchanged team when the Heineken European Cup continues away to Perpignan on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Georgian back row, capped 26 times, was one of the stars of a 29-23 home victory over twice champions Munster which helped set the tournament alight and sent Edinburgh to the top of a group which also includes Gloucester.
Ahead of the trip to the south of France, Basilaia said: “I’ve had a problem with my groin but I hope I will be OK.”
It would certainly be a blow to lose a player who is starting to come of age, helped by a run of six successive games, even if Edinburgh will be reluctant to take chances given he missed a chunk of last season with a similar injury.
Last weekend, Basilaia slotted seamlessly into a breakaway unit that included new South African signing Cornell du Prez as well as Dave Denton and contributed a notable number of carries.
As well as technical abilities, though, Basilaia stands apart as the only member of Edinburgh’s starting line-up to have played club rugby in France, albeit substitute Wiccus Blaauw had a spell at Biarritz.
“When I was 19, I left Tbilisi to join the Clermont Auvergne academy for two years,” he said. “Then I spent another four years at lower clubs Morlaas, Le Bugue, Aubenas and Valence d’Agen learning all about the passion for rugby in the country.
“I have no regrets about things not working out at Clermont (last year’s Heineken Cup losing finalists). They gave me good experience. But it is Edinburgh who have given me the chance to play as a professional.”
Basilaia was signed by previous coach Michael Bradley after outstanding performances at the 2011 World Cup, including a Test debut against Scotland.
Basilaia said: “When I look back to where I was as a player three years ago and compare that with where I am now, I am in a much better place, really comfortable.
“I am really grateful to the Edinburgh coaches – Alan Solomons, Omar Mouneimne and Stevie Scott – for giving me opportunities and I want to repay them for that trust.
“I know what to expect in France this weekend because not only have I played there but I have many friends.
“There is also a fellow Georgian internationalist (George Jgenti) in the front row and that will mean they are extremely big and physical.
“We actually watched Perpignan just losing out at Gloucester when we came back to training and a few things stood out.
“The Munster team we beat were faster than Perpignan, who were much bigger. We have to expect a physical challenge, but I like that. I want to play at blindside flanker because I like tackling.”
In fact, Edinburgh missed just four of 129 attempted tackles in beating Munster, the best success rate of any club in round one, while colleague du Preez’s 18 tackles without missing one was unprecedented.
Basilaia, who keeps in regular contact with Georgian coach Richie Dixon, the former Scotland A captain who is based in Edinburgh, has now played 19 times for Edinburgh and rates the victory over Munster as his greatest experience in the black and red jersey.
“For me that was the best because it was at home against a good team and to be in the starting team meant a lot.
“One day I would hope to play for Georgia at Murrayfield against Scotland, but long before that ever happens we have three games in the autumn against USA, Canada and Samoa.
“Hopefully what is happening for me at Edinburgh will let me get in the Georgia team and being in my second year here is definitely helping.
“Nothing is new any more and I am even aware of one other Georgian family in the city, so I am not alone!”