Edinburgh hope to maintain feelgood factor in Paris

Duncan Hodge has made eight changes to his starting line-up at Stade Jean Bouin
Duncan Hodge has made eight changes to his starting line-up at Stade Jean Bouin
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Duncan Hodge hopes Edinburgh can carry the momentum of a stirring fightback win into this evening’s return encounter with Stade Francais in Paris.

The acting head coach is determined to make it four wins out of four in the European Challenge Cup and was keen to focus on the positives of how his Pool 5 pacesetters fought back from a 20-3 half-time deficit and, with 14 men following Phil Burleigh’s 55th-minute red card, found a way to win a curious and compelling match 28-23.

“In the second half, to come back from 17 points down, says a lot,” said Hodge. “We were under pressure, but in the second half we made very good decisions and played a lot better.

“There are a lot of positives. We are all pretty angry about the first half, but that’s what we have to learn from.”

Hodge said he had never been involved in a game quite like it and, while keen to tap into the feelgood buzz of victory over one of European rugby’s biggest names, it is clear that the shocker of a first half still rankles and he knows that the chances of another Houdini act in the event of a repeat would be pushing their luck.

“Tactically we need to shift our energy and put them under pressure. We didn’t fire a shot in the first half last weekend.

“Our energy wasn’t there, tactically we were short in the first half and we didn’t adapt quickly enough. It took us 40 minutes to make some changes that should have happened a lot earlier. I’ve been asking the group why that happened and that we have to rectify these problems earlier. We can’t wait until 40 minutes.”

Hodge, who has made eight changes in what is a five-day turnaround, was speaking before learning of Burleigh’s one-match ban for “striking” at yesterday’s disciplinary hearing and he was reluctant to comment on the warning issued to Stade lock Pascal Pape over what was deemed an “exaggerated” response to the Edinburgh centre’s contact.

“It’s hard for me to comment,” said Hodge. “Rugby has values and if they think someone is being a bit, well... then they’re probably going to want to deal with that. There was a touch to the face.

“It didn’t look like it was as bad [as he made out]. From what I’ve seen it didn’t look as bad.”

Hodge agreed that the red card did have a galvanising effect on the team as they pulled together to continue their fightback from what had seemed an impossible situation at the break.

“We were already back to within five points by then and we were starting to get there,” said the coach, “Everyone just sort of mucked in and raised their game a bit more.

“We managed to control possession a lot better. Where you get hurt when a man down is if the other team has the ball they can squeeze your defence.”

Pape has been named in a Stade Francais team in which legendary Italian No.8 Sergio Parisse returns from suspension.

Both sides field new stand-offs, with Jason Tovey replacing Duncan Weir and French internationalist Jules Plisson in for Springbok Morne Steyn for the hosts. Wallaby skipper Will Genia is not involved for Stade tonight.

The bulk of Hodge’s changes come in the pack, with Grant Gilchrist rested after playing five straight games and Magnus Bradbury also given a break.

Tighthead Simon Berghan appeared to steady the Edinburgh scrum at the weekend and he gets a start, while Cornell du Preez returns in the back-row and hooker Ross Ford is back as captain.

Tom Brown returns from a groin injury on the left wing and Chris Dean comes in at centre.

Edinburgh team: Blair Kinghorn, Damien Hoyland, Michael Allen, Chris Dean, Tom Brown, Jason Tovey, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (c), Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie, Ben Toolis, Cornell Du Preez, Hamish Watson, Nasi Manu. Substitutes: Neil Cochrane, Allan Dell, Murray McCallum, Lewis Carmichael, Viliame Mata, Sean Kennedy, Duncan Weir, Glenn Bryce.