Rugby: Edinburgh scrum half puts future on hold

Mike Blair
Mike Blair
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Mike BLAIR is putting all thoughts of securing a new contract to one side as he focuses on Edinburgh Rugby’s desire to battle on two competitive fronts.

The 30-year-old scrum half’s current deal expires in February and, while international rival Chris Cusiter last week put pen to paper again with Glasgow, Blair said of his present circumstances: “It’s always at the back of your mind – but there’s nothing to report yet.”

Capped 75 times by Scotland, Blair appeared much more comfortable welcoming back long-time half-back partner Phil Godman to the competitive fray. After over a year out with knee ligament damage, Scotland star Godman re-introduced himself by scoring a try in an extended stint as Edinburgh lost out at Munster last weekend.

Earlier this season, Blair had found himself partnering either rising star Harry Leonard or Greig Laidlaw and, while praising the contributions of both men and also Gregor Hunter who was twice involved in the No. 10 shirt when Edinburgh’s World Cuppers were in New Zealand, he said: “Phil Godman coming back is fantastic. You know when he is on the ball the defence is concerned about him whipping those flat passes out and getting the back line moving.

“It’s been a frustrating time for Phil with his knee. He came back (pre-season) and had a wee niggle. Our medics have made sure he is absolutely right and the knee feels great.

“It was great for Phil to get a 70-minute run out under his belt.”

Godman’s performance was undoubtedly one of the silver linings to an Edinburgh defeat and, by scoring his fifth try, he joined Brendan Laney as joint second top scorer for Edinburgh in the league albeit 293 points is a long way behind Chris Paterson’s 773 points. And, coincidentally, Godman and Blair have now each appeared 115 times for Edinburgh in the league.

Reflecting on the 17-34 Munster setback Blair insisted: “If we can get a win against Aironi at Murrayfield on Friday that’s going to be a great boost going into the next phase of European matches a week later.

“The league is important in its own right, of course, and at the moment we are third bottom which isn’t good enough for what we want to be doing.

“We need to start fighting our way up.

“The disappointing thing about Munster was we had an opportunity at 10-13; we put ourselves in a good position. Then two sin binnings made it difficult.”

Blair is one of several Edinburgh players who helped achieve qualification for the knockout rounds of the Heineken Cup in 2003-04 and any parallel, he says, extends mainly to the winning start made to the group stage then.

“Back then we beat Toulouse at home first up and whenever you win the first game it gives you a little bit of momentum, a chance. We’ve had two crazy early games, winning by a point in both when probably after 50-55 minutes of each (London Irish away and Racing Metro at home) we probably had no chance of doing that.

“That’s given us a real chance and next up in Europe we face Cardiff home and away.

“They’ll be pleased with the position they are in (Blues are also unbeaten) and these are massive games for us.”

It has certainly been an unusual season for Blair at Edinburgh and not just because of the variety of half back partners. A rotation system has been operating and Blair has been at the heart of it. “It’s important guys get opportunities but it is important for us to be winning games,” he added.

“Personally, it has been going okay. I have started three matches and been on the bench in two. It definitely takes a wee bit of getting used to but I can understand it.

“I really enjoyed coming off the bench at half time against Racing and picking up the tempo of things (and) I’ve played two 80-minute games which is something I have not actually done that much in the last couple of years when it’s usually been around 60 minutes that a scrum half change is made.

“I’m enjoying the different challenges the situation brings.”