Rory Sutherland: ‘Edinburgh players let down Solomons’

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EDINBURGH prop Rory Sutherland admits the players have to take a share of the responsibility for Alan Solomons’ departure as head coach.

The Scotland loosehead will make his 50th appearance for the club against Treviso at BT Murrayfield tonight, kick-off 7.35pm, and he packs down in an all-Borders front row with Ross Ford and his former Gala team-mate Ewan McQuillin, who has been called up from London Scottish to plug the gap at tighthead following injuries to Kevin Bryce and WP Nel.

The 22-year-old from Hawick revealed it had been a challenging week for the players and that there was sadness about Solomons’ exit after three years with the club.

“I suppose there is a sense that we feel we let him down a little bit,” said Sutherland. “It was tough for everybody. Something had to be done. I’m not saying it had to be to let him go. That was pretty harsh on him.

“He’s done a lot for the club and a lot for my career. I’ve got a lot of respect for Solly. He gave me my chance in professional rugby. It’s been a tough couple of weeks.

“Two and a half years ago I was standing in a welding shop. I got the phone call from Alan asking me if I wanted to come up for a trial and after a couple of weeks I got a contract. So yeah he gave me my chance.

“It was a bit of a shock to everyone but something had to change. I’m not sure if that was what needed to happen but it has.

“He briefly told us that that was the decision that had been made and that he respected the decision.

“We have to respect his decision and that the people have decided that it was time for him to go. But it has been tough.”

Nel, the stalwart internationalist, injured his neck in training earlier this week and, with Bryce already on the wounded list, the club have been forced to scramble young McQuillin from London Scottish.

The 24-year-old goes straight into the team to face the Italian strugglers this evening.

“Behind the scenes that has taken a bit of organising between the SRU and London Scottish,” said acting head coach Duncan Hodge who is taking charge of his second game following the departure of Solomons.

“WP got injured on Monday. We don’t know yet but it is hopefully not too serious. At the minute he [McQuillin] is just up for this weekend and we’ll take it from there.”

With Nick Beavon, the 29-year-old signed from Melrose in the summer, felt to be not quite ready for the rigours of tighthead at Pro12 level, he has travelled south to fill in at London Scottish.

Former Edinburgh academy player McQuillin has been in London as part of the SRU’s partnership with the Exiles club. Current academy prop Murray McCallum will cover tighthead on the bench despite having played most of his rugby at loosehead.

“I’ve seen a fair bit of Murray in the last few years playing for the under-20s and Heriot’s, and it’s great for him to get some exposure,” said Hodge of the 20-year-old who will make his pro debut if he comes off the bench.

“He’s played a lot of his rugby at loosehead, but we are looking for him to play more and more at tighthead, so that will be good for him to be exposed to that this weekend and hopefully in the next couple of weeks as well.”

Treviso have had an identical start to Edinburgh, winning just one from five, but will bring the traditional Italian relish for scrum time, which will test the home side’s depleted front row resources. Hodge makes a total of five changes from the side that lost to Connacht in Galway last weekend. Hamish Watson is given the nod ahead of John Hardie at openside, while Blair Kinghorn will make his first start of the season at full-back and wing Tom Brown returns from a groin injury.

Nasi Manu also returns at No 8 to feature for the first time since the opening weekend at Cardiff.

“Certainly winning on Friday would give the boys a huge boost following the week we’ve had,” added Hodge.

“It is going to be a big challenge but its one we are looking forward to it, and we’re at home so we need to play well and start performing.”