Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons hopes new loan signing Jason Tovey can help guide the club to the top-six finish they crave – but doesn’t know yet if the Welshman’s stay will be longer.
Solomons reiterated today that the decision to release Greig Tonks to London Irish in February was because they didn’t want to stand in the way of a chance the player had to take there and then, with a guarantee of selection at his favoured stand-off position. Tovey slots in at No.10 against Zebre at BT Murrayfield this evening, with Phil Burleigh moving to inside centre – a position the Kiwi-born back’s future may lie in with Duncan Weir arriving in the summer and Matt Scott heading to Gloucester.
Tovey’s short-term move to Edinburgh is a loan, although going by the scathing criticism he has since given of his former club, a return to Dragons is not on the cards.
“Jason is an ideal replacement [for Tonks],” said Solomons. “He is a left-sided player can play 10 or 15 and can goal kick.
“Part of the deal was that he couldn’t play against Dragons [a 16-15 win for Edinburgh in Newport on Sunday], which was understandable, and that has given him time to slot in with us.”
Asked if Tovey’s stay could be prolonged, the coach replied: “Things like that take care of themselves and the focus at the moment is this season.” Tovey will form a half-back pairing with Sean Kennedy for tonight’s visit of the next-to-bottom Italian strugglers, as Scotland scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne drops to the bench.
“I think Sean has looked really sharp when he has played and deserves an opportunity,” said Solomons. John Hardie remains out injured, but the South African coach said: “John will be back before the end of the season. He is still not 100 per cent with both a groin and neck problem, and Hamish Watson has been playing really well.”
Skipper Mike Coman, who will follow Tonks to London Irish at the end of the season, returns for his 50th appearance, and Solomons believes the boost in senior figures will ensure there is no repeat of the complacency which led to an embarrassing defeat by Zebre in Parma earlier in the season.
He said: “Zebre are not just going to roll over.
“They are going to be competitive and have some good players. We give respect to all teams. You don’t fear any team but likewise you don’t underestimate any team.
“There is no doubt that having Fordy [Ross Ford] and Dicko [Alasdair Dickinson], and I’d include [sub hooker] Stu McInally in this too because he is a great leader, and Mike Coman coming back in, makes a huge difference. That thread of leadership wasn’t there. When you’ve got guys like that in there any underestimation of the opposition doesn’t happen.”
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Michael Allen, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Mike Coman (c), 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson. Replacements: 16 Stuart Mcinally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 John Andress, 19 Alex Toolis, 20 Magnus Bradbury, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyn, 22 Chris Dean 23 Will Helu
Zebre: 15 Kayle Van Zyl, 14 Ulrich Beyers, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Johan Meyer, 7 Federico Ruzza, 6 Jean Cook, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti. Replacements: 16 Bruno Postiglioni, 17 Guillermo Roan, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg , 20 Emiliano Caffini, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Giulio Bisegni