Edinburgh’s crunch European Challenge Cup Pool 4 fixture against Stade Francais on Friday night has been moved to BT Murrayfield after it was deemed the Myreside pitch needs time to recover following a period of bad weather.
It is the third European home game to be relocated to the national stadium after the London Irish and Krasny Yar matches in December. An Edinburgh Rugby statement said: “Pitch protection work has been ongoing at Myreside following last weekend’s 37-7 win over Southern Kings. However, due to the extraordinary weather circumstances over the past week and during the match against the Southern Kings itself, it has been decided the pitch needs further time to sufficiently recover.”
The latest incidence of Myreside being unplayable is a blow to the club as they try to create a sense of identity at their new, more suitably sized home. Coach Richard Cockerill has made attracting more people to the revamped George Watson’s College ground a priority and said that he wants to play as many games there as possible, including the home quarter-final in the European Challenge Cup that will be theirs if they win on Friday.
Speaking on Monday ahead of the decision to move, Cockerill said: “Coming here [to Murrayfield] is a good option to us. If there is a doubt, it is a good option to move to here. Either way we are not bothered.”
The development raises questions about the suitability of the Myreside pitch, especially in the winter months. The surface has held up much better than it did during the initial six-month trial at the end of last season, but is clearly vulnerable at this time of year.
Glasgow Warriors have installed a 4G pitch at Scotstoun, while the international pitch at Murrayfield is a hybrid surface.
Meanwhile, scrum-half Nathan Fowles has spoken of the benefit to his game garnered from working with former Scotland, Lions and Edinburgh No.9 Mike Blair during his time with the national squad in the autumn.
The 24-year-old was a surprise call-up to the November Tests group and, while he didn’t make a matchday squad, he feels the time spent with Blair was extremely profitable.
“That was the first time I’ve been in that environment,” said Fowles of his call-up. “Obviously to meet the coaching staff and the other players was great and getting to work quite closely with Mike Blair was really helpful.
“He has given me stuff to bring me back to the club and work on to progress my game which I’ve been trying to do these past few weeks. It was very positive for me.
“Obviously I didn’t get involved in the games in the autumn but just in training and doing the little extras with Mike, specific advice he can give me which in day to day training I might not get. He’ll watch my game a lot more closely than a general attack coach would.”
Now that Fowles has a taste he is keen to be named in the Six Nations squad, which will be announced between the upcoming Stade Francais ties, and forecasts a good Edinburgh contingent.
“Definitely. A lot of lads have been going well for us,” he said. “You could see in the Glasgow games there was an extra edge and a lot of head to heads going on. All the lads and coaches know how big those games are towards selection for that Scotland team. I think we’ll get a lot of players in the Six Nations squad like we did in the autumn.”
His friendly rivalry with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne for club and international recognition remains an ongoing one.
“Selection is not in my control,” he said. “I can only do what I can do when I get the opportunity to play. I think I’ve played quite well the past few weeks. I’ve just got to wait for the opportunities. It was nice to start on Friday and thought I played well again.”
There is an argument that Edinburgh could benefit from having more meaningful games in Europe than Glasgow, who are already out of the Champions Cup.
“Yeah but we’re just embracing every game we play at the moment, week to week trying to get better and get to where we want to be,” said Fowles.
“If we win this week we’ll be in knockout European rugby which is what we want. We want to try and win this competition and in the league we’re going alright.
“We’ve got some big games against Munster, Leinster. They’re going to be massive for where we want to finish at the end of the season, if we want to push for those play-off places and Champions Cup they are must-wins for us and we’re really looking forward to it.”