Edinburgh Rugby front rower James Hilterbrand believes tomorrow’s European Challenge Cup final clash with Gloucester is the result of two years of hard work at the club, but insists that it is only the start of better things for the Capital outfit.
The Australian-born prop or hooker, who is Scottish qualified, arrived in the city shortly after Alan Solomons had taken on the role of head coach. And since then, he has seen a gradual evolution that has delivered an upturn in fortunes and means Edinburgh enter the final month of the season with targets in both European and domestic competitions.
A top six finish in the Guinness PRO12 will ensure Champions Cup rugby next season. However, any aspirations in that direction have been set aside this week with the focus firmly on events at The Stoop tomorrow night.
“I came here just after Alan had got here. Since them it has just been about developing Edinburgh Rugby. There is a lot of buy in. Once you start to buy in to what the club is doing as a whole you start to get results. That’s what is happening now,” said Hilterbrand, who will not be involved in the silverware decider but will be one of the Edinburgh players mixing with supporters in the fanzone at the nearby Richmond Athletic ground tomorrow afternoon.
“I have been training with the squad this week. Nothing has really changed to be honest. It is just like any other week. Obviously we are playing a more important game. We played them last year and we beat them in Gloucester so we know how to do it,” added the former Western Force player who will be out of contract in June.
The week’s training has been designed to work on technical aspects rather than fitness, explained Hilterbrand, who was involved when the European adventure started with a win away to Bordeaux last October then also featured against Lyon and in both matches against London Welsh.
“The thing we have been saying is that no matter what we do this week we are not going to change – we are not going to get stronger or faster in a couple of days, so it has just been about getting in the right mind set. We have had reviews and previews just like we would do in any other week.”
Hilterbrand believes that preparations have been made easier by the presence of former Gloucester man Alasdair Dickinson in the Edinburgh ranks, and with a familiar face in the opposition line up.
“He has been talking to the boys about how they scrum and about the individuals,” he said of his fellow front rower Dickinson. “We are also fortunate enough to know one of their main playmakers in Greig Laidlaw. He is a fiery little character and I’m sure he will be giving the boys a bit of stick and the boys will be giving him a bit of stick back.
“We have looked at their strengths and their weaknesses. A few things can change in a year but we apply the same philosophy, we look at their games and figure out where they are vulnerable, where they are not then put our game plan together.”
Hilterbrand was talking at the Three Sisters in the Cowgate. The bar has been designated as the official supporters’ venue and will be showing the game on a giant outdoor screen. That facility proved popular during the recent RBS Six Nations when up to 5000 people watched Scotland take on Ireland.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh will be well supported in London with several thousand supporters expected to make their presence felt in a capacity 14,800 attendance. Each of the finalists received 2000 tickets and the Murrayfield-based outfit sold almost all of that allocation, while some fans went direct to the host club Harlequins and others had secured their places via the organisers before the finalists were known.