Scotland rugby legend Andy Irvine believes Edinburgh’s new home at Myreside could, in time, prove even more successful than Glasgow’s move to Scotstoun.
The Capital pro team will play the first match of an initial six-month trial at the revamped Watsonians stadium on Friday night against Romanian side Timisoara Saracens in their final European Challenge Cup Pool 5 game.
Irvine, now the Edinburgh Rugby chairman, is impressed with the new Myreside set-up which has temporary stands and a current capacity of 5500, believing it could have the same galvanising effect as Glasgow have enjoyed in recent years.
“I can tell you that this will even be a better atmosphere than Scotstoun,” said the former Lion and SRU president. “That’s because the fans will be much more closer to the players and it is a slightly tighter ground.
“It will be absolutely rocking and I would not be surprised if the upcoming Munster and Cardiff games are complete sell outs.
“It will not only be a great atmosphere but, from the Edinburgh players’ point of view, it will be a home match. When they play at Murrayfield it is almost a neutral venue. It will be great for the players and spectators.”
He may be a Heriot’s man to the core but Irvine said yesterday that he felt he was at a home from home as he surveyed the scene at Myreside ahead of Friday’s game.
The legendary former Scotland and Lions full-back is excited about what he hopes will be a dawn of a new era for the club. After years spent rattling around the cavernous national stadium this new partnership with the independent school, which owns the ground, will see Edinburgh play six home games in an initial six-month trial with a view to making it their permanent home following a review process in the summer.
The hope is that Myreside will be as close to full as possible on Friday as Edinburgh bid for the bonus-point win which will mean they top Pool 5 and seal a home quarter-final.
The new stands behind each goal have transformed the old stadium from the days when Irvine graced its turf in club battles against Watsonians and also for the Edinburgh district.
“I played here for Edinburgh against the All Blacks in 1979 in front of a big crowd of about 6-8000. Against Australia, against Romania, against Fiji.
“I played a lot of inter-district games, Glasgow, and to be honest it was probably the best atmosphere of all the Edinburgh grounds because it was enclosed with the trees and surroundings so from a full-back’s point of view it was always easier to play here.”
Any home European quarter-final would be at BT Murrayfield to accommodate as big a crowd as possible but Irvine said the club’s win at the weekend has set the week up perfectly and called for a carnival atmosphere on Friday.
“The chances of winning the first game is pretty good, especially coming off a tremendous win over Harlequins,” said Irvine. “I just hope the players get the support from the public and are rewarded for their efforts as that was a hell of a win on Saturday.
“At the moment we have just over 3000 tickets sold. This is innovative from Edinburgh’s point of view. Although Edinburgh have played here before they have never had the stands or the infrastructure. It will be great.”
After too long spent in the shadow of Glasgow’s exploits in reaching Pro12 finals, winning it in 2015 and now looking to push on at Europe’s top table, Irvine hopes that the Myreside move can spark the Capital side towards challenging the men from the west.
“I still believe Edinburgh can outdo Glasgow on the field and off the field as well,” said the 65-year-old. “You have to give Glasgow credit for having the vision to go to a small ground. I had been advocating for years to get out of Murrayfield.
“Murrayfield is not a home venue for Edinburgh. It is a neutral venue. For instance when Cardiff come to Murrayfield or a Munster it is hardly an away fixture for them. This will be.”