Jim’s feeling bullish ahead of Baa-baas appearance

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Jim THOMPSON is aiming to celebrate in style for Edinburgh Rugby at home to Connacht in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 league tonight after this week landing a prized invitation to turn out for the world-famous Barbarians.

The match for which 25-year-old Thompson has been selected is no ordinary fixture so far as he is concerned as the Baa-baas will be playing to honour the memory of his late, lamented, grandfather, television commentator Bill McLaren, against South of Scotland on Tuesday, October 11 at Hawick.

“To be picked for a Barbarians debut at any time is great but the current circumstances, a memorial occasion for Papa in a rugby heartland, is particularly special.

“It will be good to be at full back in the Barbarians team no doubt intent on throwing the ball around as usual and hopefully I can get into that spirit for Edinburgh against Connacht,” said the Scotland A star.

For the first time since joining in 2008 Thompson has been able to make a flying start, being selected for each of the opening games so far.

“I did miss the first month of pre-season with a knee injury but that is behind me and it has been good to be able to show a bit of versatility, turning out at both full back and centre so far,” he said.

Tonight Thompson is at centre against a team who have the misfortune to be victims of Edinburgh’s biggest ever win – a 62-13 thrashing in 2009.

Something similar would be especially timely, with Edinburgh needing to prove they are better than results so far – a 38-15 home loss to Cardiff and a 26-19 defeat at Ospreys – indicate.

The message from Thompson is that Edinburgh could be waiting to click, helped by inside knowledge of the opposition.

“It definitely could happen that we cut loose against Connacht like we did a couple of years ago provided we stick to our game-plan and take our chances and not focus all on attack.

“We have to be strong in defence as well and last week was a big improvement compared to the week before. Defence coach Billy McGinty was pleased with certain aspects and our aim is to always ensure he has a smile on his face.

“It’s too early to write our team off. I know we have lost two from two but our performance last week at Ospreys was better.

“When we get a win it will be a huge boost and we’ll kick on.

“We had a bit of a blip against Cardiff in the first game and showed a lot of improvement away to the Ospreys. Everyone was absolutely gutted to lose in the last couple of minutes.

“We want to show we can get a good win under out belt. We gave away a couple of soft tries against Cardiff while making opportunities, which was the good thing. It’s about taking these opportunities.”

Adding piquancy is the fact that new Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley will be pitting his wits against the team he worked for up until 2010.

Thompson says: “Michael Bradley is obviously a Connacht man and when your coach has coached the team you are playing against it is definitely a big help in reviewing where they might not be as strong.”

Edinburgh’s starting line-up has Greig Laidlaw moved from scrum half to stand off where he made four appearances at the end of last season. Three other changes see Lee Jones on the wing for Simon Webster (hamstring) and Jack Gilding and Steven Turnbull coming into the pack for Lewis Niven and Esteban Lozada.

While Thompson, right, paired with James King at centre last week operating outside Laidlaw will be a new experience for the partnership but one to be relished, the one-time Heriot’s ace claims.

“James has a good passing game and is a good defender.

“And Greig is such a good footballer it’s easy playing outside someone like him who also talks a lot on the pitch. He leads by example as well.”

On the bench will be recent age-group caps Robin Hislop, Stuart McInally, Gregor Hunter, Alex Black and Matt Scott.

“There are a lot of young guys coming in who are showing up well and with guys at the World Cup it is up to us pick up as many wins for when they come back.

“We also have to ensure they don’t just walk straight back into the team but we aim to tap into the good feeling for rugby that’s around based on the World Cup which will hopefully bring along more fans tonight,” said Thompson.