Rugby: Edinburgh flanker gears up for Paris clash

Ross Rennie
Ross Rennie
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With a brother, James, playing in the Basque country with St Jean de Luz, Ross Rennie doesn’t have far to look for deep insight into French rugby culture.

And the 25-year-year-old international flanker’s 19 previous Heineken European Cup outings with Edinburgh, including four from off the bench, have included clashes with Agen, Castres, Stade Francais and Toulouse.

So, it is with some authority that Rennie pinpoints exactly what his team will have to counteract when they pitch up at the Stade du Manoir in Paris tomorrow for a vital showdown with Racing Metro.

He may have missed the reciprocal leg at Murrayfield as part of the team’s rotation policy but Rennie looked on with admiration at the free-flowing nature of proceedings which eventually brought a 48-47 home win.

He said: “I have probably played about six times against French opponents, enough to know their style is different.

“They like to pass the ball before contact which is unusual and they look for a lot more offloads than we do in the UK.

“There are just different challenges across the park from what we are used to.

“If we get a good platform that will be a start because there is no bigger challenge than trying to win in France.”

Despite their Murrayfield losing bonus point and a win at London Irish, the Parisians are surely out of qualifying contention with a seven-point haul leaving them at the foot of the pool.

But, according to 11 times capped Rennie, that only makes them more dangerous.

“No French team playing at home likes losing,” he said. “It’s still going to be a very tough game, especially as we have also had to spend part of this week fixing things that didn’t go right against Ulster in the league last Friday.”

Rennie could be absolved from any blame having missed that 42-20 defeat but a feeling of collective responsibility prevails. “Ulster came out firing and showed that if you make mistakes top teams capitalise.”

Absence against Ulster came despite being included in national coach Andy Robinson’s provisional squad for the Six Nations and that has made for a rollercoaster season in which he and Roddy Grant have contested the open side flanker’s spot at Edinburgh.

“This season has been different,” admitted Rennie, while acknowledging: “Roddy has been playing well and that is a challenge I’ve been happy to take up.

“Now that I have got some game time again I’m really looking forward to trying to give the team momentum going into the final round of pool matches at home to London Irish.

“The previous match against Racing (when their attempted match-winning drop goal with the final kick was charged down) showed how tiny things make a difference.

“With that sort of attention to detail required there is certainly no time to think about the [upcoming] Six Nations.”

Rennie’s comments about curbing French flair are echoed by back row colleague Netani Talei, the Fijian captain, who said: “We need to slow them down and not let them carry the ball, They love throwing the ball about and are similar to the likes of Cardiff and Leinster, whom we play regularly, in being physical up front and dangerous spreading the ball wide.

“They are strong boys but we have a really good pack this weekend but if we are physical enough we will be involved in every aspect of the game.”

Referring to how Edinburgh opened up an early lead and then were overhauled last time by Racing before a sensational surge saw them home, Talei said: “The previous match was weird. Hopefully we can gain momentum and once ahead keep punching forward.

“We can’t slacken because if you give them space they will take a mile and just keep going.

“Basically we want to finish top of the group which is possible (Edinburgh are level with Cardiff on 13 points). If we take this game singly, then next week worries about itself.”