Edinburgh’s acting head coach Duncan Hodge admits he is feeling the pressure as Edinburgh’s season continues to unfold with a regular drumbeat of defeat.
Home wins over Harlequins in Europe and Ulster in the Guinness PRO12 have been feathers in the cap of the former Scotland stand-off since he took over when Alan Solomons departed earlier in the season.
However, a series of defeats, including the shocker at home to Italian strugglers Zebre, leaves Edinburgh in tenth position. Hodge named his team to face Stade Francais in tonight’s home Challenge Cup Pool 5 match and was asked if he was feeling the pressure.
“Personally? Everyone feels the pressure yeah. Definitely,” he replied. “We are out to win games of rugby every week. We are no different to anybody else.”
“I get as frustrated as the players. It goes back to some of the things we are doing, and some of the things we are not. It is very frustrating. Can we change everything in seven games? Doubt it.
“It is just something we have to just keep addressing and get better at. At this level you don’t see any team win every game during the season. It is all about consistency of performance.
“We have to give yourselves a better shot, how we address the game, how we adapt on the pitch. Even when things are going wrong we need to give ourselves a better chance of winning games of rugby.”
Hodge said there has been no word from the SRU on his future and is focused on maintaining what, in contrast to the PRO12, has been a perfect start to the European campaign.
He has made five changes from the side that lost at Ospreys last weekend, with Scotland prop Alasdair Dickinson making a welcome return from a long-term hamstring injury.
In the back-row Viliame Mata steps up from the bench to start on the blindside, and Hamish Watson returns for his first game after a successful autumn series. Phil Burleigh and Mike Allen come in to fill the centre positions.
While a second tier European double-header, with the return in Paris on Thursday, could be viewed as refreshing break from the stresses of the PRO12, it could alternatively be seen as a distraction from the main job at hand, which is collecting championship points.
Hodge said: “Every week is kind of the same in terms of what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to learn, how we’re trying to behave, although it is very different playing a French team in terms of the names and style of play, so it is different.
“It’s not really a distraction, it’s a good thing – change is a good thing because it gives us a different focus and we’re playing against people we don’t normally play against so things will be different on the pitch as well.”
After losing their opener at Harlequins, Stade need a win tonight or their future in the competition is bleak. Wallabies captain and scrum-half Will Genia, who played in the autumn Test at the same venue a month ago, returns and will be partnered at half-back by Springbok Morne Steyn, with France stand-off Jules Plisson on the bench.
“They’ve got some huge names playing at their club,” said Hodge. “They’re certainly a big physical team and they’ve got some great outside backs as well.
“They look to use their forwards and they like to give their outside backs some ball as well. We want to influence that because how we play definitely determines how they play.”
It has been a frustrating year for capped scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne but he retains the No.9 jersey. “He needs some rugby,” said Hodge. “He’s trained really well and played well last week against a big, physical team.
“It’s a really hard situation with three No.9s. Nathan Fowles is unlucky as well because he started the season really well. Sean’s done really well, but there’s a bit of everything in there – such as the opposition – but for this game Sam and Duncy are the pairing we’re going to go with.
“The squad is starting to look stronger because we’ve got a couple of guys back, in terms of Dicko and Simon Berghan on the bench, so that’s been positive for us.”