Grant Gilchrist explains why this Edinburgh Rugby version could be best yet
When Grant Gilchrist made his Edinburgh debut 11 years ago the club were riding high in Europe but struggling domestically.
The experienced lock, who has put pen to paper on a new contract which will extend his stay at the club into a 13th season, now believes the team is good enough to challenge on both fronts.
The 31-year-old thinks this is the most balanced and possibly the strongest squad he has been involved with and is looking for a tangible reward after his decade-plus at the coalface.
“It is something that I would love to do before I retire,” he says of the prospect of winning silverware.
“I have invested a lot of time and effort and I absolutely love the club and the people that have come before, the people that are there now. I would have hated to have gone elsewhere and looked on from afar at a club that I am so passionate about being successful.”
Gilchrist’s breakthrough in 2011-12 saw Edinburgh reach the Heineken Cup semi-finals under Michael Bradley. They were heady days, with 38,000 turning up at Murrayfield for the quarter-final win over Toulouse, and it remains the best performance by a Scottish club in Europe’s elite competition. But Edinburgh toiled in the Pro12, finishing second bottom.
Gilchrist reckons there is a bit more substance to Mike Blair’s team who have the versatility to win in different ways.
“The depth of the squad is why we can compete on both fronts and be a more consistent outfit than we were in 2011,” he said. “Back then we could go well in one-off games but struggled with that consistency. We are in a different place now.
“It’s gone full circle. When I first started we were an all-flowing team that played some great rugby but our set-piece and our defence didn’t hold up in big games against top teams. Then we played a bit more conservatively and our set-piece and defence was our biggest strength but we struggled to break teams down. This season I believe this is the best opportunity we’ve got to do it all. To be able to win games in different ways.
“I love the way we won at Sarries as we had been blowing teams away with our attacking and then we went there and won with a kick-chase defence game in the rain. That shows we’ve not lost what we’ve worked on for the last four or five years.”
Schooled at Alloa RFC, Gilchrist has spent his whole pro career at Edinburgh and has no regrets, despite interest from France a few years ago.
“Things might have been a bit different if I had gone there,” he said. “I don’t regret anything in my career. I grew up watching Edinburgh on Friday nights when they played at Myreside and played down at Meadowbank as well so I never take it for granted that I play for the club I support.
“With Mike coming in I see an opportunity to make myself and the team better over the next few years as well and that is a massive factor.”