Edinburgh Rugby winger Will Helu is eyeing Friday night’s European Challenge Cup tie at home to Grenoble as an opportunity for the Capital men to move on from a run of three successive league defeats and embark on another cross-border adventure.
Reflecting on a painful defeat at home to Munster on Saturday, Helu said: “We’re just trying to get back on the horse, and this is a good chance to break away from the Pro12 and have a new challenge. Edinburgh did well last year in reaching the final of the Challenge Cup and we have high hopes for this tournament again this year. We’ll definitely be sending out a full side against Grenoble.”
There are likely to be some familiar faces in the opposition ranks. Helu spent season 2009/10 at Grenoble, making 20 appearances as the club, which then operated in the second tier of French rugby, failed to earn promotion. The step up came the following season and Grenoble have subsequently developed into a side that is difficult to beat and brimming with flair.
“I think they planned well. They took a couple of years to get up and having made it they have sustained it,” he explained. “They’ve had a couple of good signings over the years, and they’ve obviously developed the way they play because this season they’ve had a pretty expansive game – they like to play with the ball in hand. They are a typical French side in that if you let them get a bit of momentum they will play a very dangerous offloading game.”
Several of his colleagues from that period remain in the squad, among them winger Lucas Dupont, full back Fabien Gengenbacher and flanker Jonathan Best, while some of the younger players have now progressed to the senior ranks. He also renewed his acquaintance with them two seasons ago when he lined up in Wasps colours.
The 29-year-old Tongan international exhibited his finishing power with his first touchdown since joining Edinburgh during Saturday’s loss at the hands of Munster and he is desperate to be involved again against the French outfit that currently sits eighth in the Top 14 table.
“When you play against clubs that you were with before, you want to show that there was a reason why you’ve moved on. Personally, I can’t wait for this game,” he added.
Helu believes that the recent arrival of Duncan Hodge as backs coach can be the catalyst to drive Edinburgh to a higher level of performance, stating: “He has come into the fold now and he’s quickly pointed some of the things we need to work on to grow.
“He’s an Edinburgh man, played for Scotland, coached the Scotland backs in the World Cup, so he’s come with a lot of experience and as an outsider coming in he’s been able to tweak a few things.”
By contrast to the anticipated positive impact of Hodge’s input, Helu was sorry to see the first high profile departure since he linked up with the squad after the World Cup. However, he believes the decision of David Denton to join Bath is simply a feature of the modern game.
“I haven’t played with him but I’ve watched a lot of his games,” he said. “First of all it’s a disappointing loss for Edinburgh. Having a guy like Denton adds a lot of firepower and it would have been good to play alongside him. But, it is a professional sport now so a lot of people move. So, we wish him all the best.”