Assistant coach Steve Scott has backed Edinburgh Rugby to keep battling successfully on two fronts going into the season’s run-in.
Rejecting any suggestion that Sunday’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final at London Irish could be a distraction with Edinburgh’s hopes of stepping back up to the premier Champions Cup with a top-six finish on the line over four concluding Guinness Pro 12 games, Scott said: “Our plan was to qualify from the (Challenge Cup) group and once we won our first two games, the quarter-final became a target.
“We’ve already done some focusing on London Irish and we will be doing more preparation. Sunday is a one-off game and the challenge is how we respond in that situation.
“After that every game (in the league) against Munster, Zebre and Leinster at home as well as Dragons away is a cup final.
“But we have already won the 1872 Cup by beating Glasgow over two legs and the aim is to add to that success.”
A 26-15 win at Scarlets on Saturday has seen Edinburgh leapfrog Scarlets to seventh and level on points with Connacht.
Connacht’s run-in comprises Ulster, Glasgow and Ospreys at home as well as a trip to Zebre.
Scarlets face Zebre, Treviso and Dragons away as well as Cardiff at home.
Scott added: “We got the balance right at the weekend by resting some players after the Six Nations and the big thing for us is we are playing better.
“We’ve had Sean Kennedy and Alex Toolis go to London Irish on loan, so we know quite a bit about them.
“There’s also Neil Cochrane at Edinburgh who can have quite a bit of input as a former Premiership player in England (with Wasps).”
This will be the third time Edinburgh have visited London Irish and on the last occasion Stuart McInally gained man-of-the-match honours as a back row. Now he has converted to hooker and beginning to press British and Irish Lion Ross Ford hard.
A former Test hooker himself, Scott is delighted at the increased competition in the role.
“Stuart’s attitude during the transition from back row to front row has been superb,” he said. “It was not an easy decision for him as he was a good back row.
“Once he made it I was always clear he wouldn’t fail due to lack of trying and he works hard on his line-out throwing as well as wanting to know everything about scrummaging. He’s always asking questions in putting in 110 per cent every time.”
Scott was also able to confirm that Tim Visser will remain a key figure up until his move to Harlequins, which has just been confirmed for the summer.
“Tim has been here for six years and has been a terrific player for Edinburgh, scoring some good tries. I would imagine we made him an offer, but it was his decision to go.
“Now grounds are firming up and that should suit Tim’s style of play even more. He’ll play unless someone is in better form.”
Who is likely to replace Visser?
“Like every team we are always looking at options but (Tongan) Will Helu will join from Wasps and he is quality, the players’ player of the year last season at that club.
“Tom Brown played well on the wing for us at Scarlets and there is also Dougie Fife, Damien Hoyland and Jamie Farndale,” said Scott who denied any knowledge of an Edinburgh link to Fijian powerhouse Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Scott also believes that head coach Alan Solomons will extend his contract which is up for renewal.
“I would not want to comment on Alan, but it is important he is around for next season. I’m hopeful it will happen,” he said.
“Alan has done a great job. It is starting to come together and he did say it would take time. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Ben Toolis have come through to win caps, as has Hamish Watson, who was playing in the Premiership with Edinburgh Accies last season.
“When chances arose these players took them.
“I’d expect the likes of Chris Dean and Damien Hoyland to do the same next season along with Jamie Farndale, who is also gaining experience of playing in front of big crowds with the Scotland sevens squad.
“They’ll get opportunities.”