Edinburgh stalwart Sean Cox has pinpointed a major threat that must be contained if momentum is to be added to his team’s Rabo Direct Pro 12 campaign against Zebre at Murrayfield tonight.
The Italian combine may be newly formed, but Cox, who has started 15 of Edinburgh’s last 16 games at second row, is well aware of the counter attacker that is Samoan international Sinoti Sinoti lurking in the opposition back-line.
“Sinoti at full back will be a very dangerous player for them,” said 27-year-old Cox. “He is a big stepper and brings the counter-attacking game into their repertoire.”
In fact, Sinoti, formerly with French cracks Toulon, is one of a host of players who have switched from the now defunct Aironi outfit after playing his part last season as Edinburgh crashed 25-19 in Viadana.
That result should serve as a warning even though Zebre have lost both outings so far, but Cox indicated that Edinburgh’s preparations are even more thorough nowadays.
“This season, our team room at Murrayfield has been moved to right by the coaches’ offices. Anybody with a spare ten minutes is inevitably on a laptop looking at opposition and doing extras all the time.
“Zebre might be new to the competition, but we have their two games so far on video which showed them to be more sophisticated than Aironi who were more set-piece dominated.
“It can be difficult playing a team for the first time, but we feel we have prepared well in order to know what to expect.”
One newcomer to the Edinburgh backroom team is forwards’ coach Neil Back, and, according to Cox, the attention to detail being shown by a man, who was part of England’s World Cup winning team in 2003 before gaining top-flight coaching experience, plays a significant part in unison with head coach Michael Bradley and defence guru Billy McGinty.
In last weekend’s win at Cardiff, when Cox wasn’t helping to set up a try for Tim Visser he was part of a forward unit that squeezed the Welshmen into submission. Referring to Back’s contributions, Cox said: “Neil Back is training us real hard and we have a great intensity in training, especially around our set piece. “We are working on set pieces on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. While it leaves us tired by Wednesday afternoon we are getting the rewards. Neil is very technical and his level of detail is absolutely exceptional.
“The boys are enjoying it through his being very clear on what the job is.
“It goes right across the squad with the subs coming on and doing great things because they know exactly what they have to do.
“For example, I work with Neil on lineouts and the day after the Cardiff game we sat down with all the Zebra line-outs written down.
“We know exactly what they have done in the past two games. From that we can come up with a defence strategy that goes right across the team. We knew by Monday or Tuesday exactly what we were going to do against them.”
A bonus-point win tonight could push Edinburgh into the top three which would further distance them from that opening day defeat by Munster.
According to Cox, it was a wake-up call: “The message through last week was to go down to Cardiff and get back the points we had lost the week before.
“We’re sitting now with a four-point win and a bonus-point loss. That isn’t the end of the world. However, we could have won those two games comfortably because of the chances we are creating. Our performances in both games were similar, but it was nice to be on right side of the result.”
Much is made of “second season syndrome” where more is known about a player by the opposition after his debut campaign.
Another context concerns the way players like Sean Cox can benefit from settling into an environment joined just over 12 months ago.
Certainly Cox has developed into one of those players colleagues rally around and he claims to have had a better pre-season compared with the upheaval of relocating from Sale Sharks in mid-2011.
“I really enjoyed pre-season work this time round. I knew everyone and knew what they were about. So, I’ve trained to potential.
“We have all had to because, with the squad a little bit deeper, any poor or average game will leave you sat on the bench or worse for the next three or four games.”