Edinburgh Rugby’s utility back Greig Tonks hopes the return of the club’s Scotland World Cup contingent can inspire a much-needed win over Munster at BT Murrayfield on Saturday evening.
Following four straight wins at the start of the Guinness Pro12, the wheels have slightly come off the Edinburgh bandwagon in recent weeks, with narrow back-to-back away losses to Zebre and Connacht.
Taking on last year’s competition runners-up, who will also have a raft of returning internationalists, will be a tough test, but Tonks, who was involved in the Scotland training squad in the summer, is confident that Alan Solomons’ men can get things back on track.
“Having the World Cup boys back has definitely has given us a lift,” said the 26-year-old. “They had a good World Cup and that’s motivated them to come back and do well for Edinburgh. They’re not the sort of guys who get carried away. They all want to work hard and the other guys feed of it. It gives us confidence.
“When everyone is here you kind of sit back and look and think, ‘Jeez we’ve got a pretty strong squad here’. It’s about time we did something pretty decent.”
Tonks has recovered from the groin injury which kept him out of the defeats in Italy and Galway and, with Phil Burleigh departing injured last week, is in line for a start in his favoured stand-off position this weekend.
He said: “The team has not been announced, but there looks a good chance I will be. I get asked a lot about preferring stand-off and yes I do enjoy the opportunity and look forward to doing so again.”
As well as Scotland’s first-choice front row of Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel, this week has also saw new signing John Hardie join his new Edinburgh team-mates in training.
“He’s been very good and proved in the World Cup what a talented player he is,” said Tonks of the New Zealand-born openside. “We are the beneficiaries but we have a lot of competition in that position. It’s going to be tough for guys who miss out but we hope that we see the benefit in terms of results from that competition.”
Edinburgh have not enjoyed much success against Munster over the years and Tonks knows this Saturday will be a formidable challenge.
“We struggled against them here last season and lost by 30 points, it was a pretty poor performance,” he recalled. “They’ve been doing well and play quite an expansive game now. It’s going to be tough. We’ve not had a great couple of weeks, made some mistakes and we’ve tried to address that in training.”
That home loss to the Munstermen near the end of last season saw Edinburgh mauled off the pitch and Tonks said that is something that is being taken into consideration in training this week.
“Mauling is something that’s been very strong for us,” he said. “We have a strong set of forwards and been mauling very well attacking and defensively.
“Against Ulster we kept their maul out when they were on our line.
“The forwards have been working hard on it and they are good at it but it was poor that night against Munster and hopefully we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I think given how the past two games have gone for us it makes it an even more important game. We’re back at home and after a good start we’ve let things slip a bit. Five wins and two losses is a lot different to four and three.”
Tonks can’t quite put his finger on precisely what has gone wrong in the last couple of weeks and explained: “It’s never one thing. Both games that we’ve lost there’s been a lot of what we call chaos turnovers – spilled ball, pops out of a ruck and fumbles.
“It’s small margins. You can hold the ball for five minutes, work hard to get up near their tryline then, ball drops on the floor, turnover, and all that effort is undone. That and penalties too. So we need to work on discipline and cut down the mistakes.”
Edinburgh famously reached the final of the European Challenge Cup last season and begin this year’s campaign at home to Grenoble next weekend, but Tonks said thoughts can’t stray too far forward with such a difficult Pro12 game looming.
He said: “Last year we had a good run at it and hopefully we can again. We are at home next week as well for the first pool game [against Grenoble] so we need a win this week to kick on into Europe. But Munster is the complete focus at the moment.”
The emergence of 18-year-old Blair Kinghorn, the Scotland Under-20 stand-off who started at full-back in Connacht, means Tonks has competition of his own, which is something he welcomes.
“Blair is a talented guy,” he said. “He’s young but I think he’s going to benefit from involvement at such a young age. He’s skilful, quick, kicks well. He’s got it all there and will pick up small things as he goes on. I’m glad he’s getting a run, it will give him confidence. It’s competition for me, but that’s always healthy.”
Coach Solomons will tomorrow name the team to face Munster on Saturday, kick-off 5.15pm.