Rugby: Ex-player warns of Racing’s threat

Racing Metro centre Virimi Vakatawa
Racing Metro centre Virimi Vakatawa
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EDINBURGH RUGBY have been warned they will face a more determined Racing Metro side compared to the one they defeated home and away last season when the teams meet in the Heineken European Cup in Paris tomorrow.

The advice comes from one of Edinburgh’s most decorated ex-players, Scott Murray, who has had a close-up of the Parisiens in action during the past month.

Now playing with Mont-de-Marsan in the French Top 14, the 87-times capped Scotland second row was disappointed to be sidelined through a facial injury requiring 15 stitches when his club won 17-16 at Racing on November 10.

However, when looking on from the stand, Murray noticed a different style being embraced by a Racing team he also expects to be hungrier for having opened their Euro section with a home win over Munster before losing to Saracens in a match the 
English club hosted in Brussels.

Murray said: “Last year, Racing lost their first three pool matches which affected the way they played, certainly in the home game against Edinburgh.

“If the French are in with a chance of qualifying they will really go for it. On the other hand, they will quickly prioritise domestic matters if things are going badly in Europe.

“However, when my club played Racing recently, upheaval behind the scenes meant that some of their players had just been told unusually early they would soon be surplus to requirements next season.

“Also, by losing to us they had a week’s holiday cancelled, which has further unsettled them. So, given how emotional the French normally can be, Edinburgh are liable to face some angry men and a few new opponents compared to last year.

“Absent from the 2011-12 encounters was Fijian winger Isereli Bobo who can be a handful on the wing, while, in the forwards, players to watch out for are flanker Antoine Batut and second row Karim Ghezal.”

Ghezal started the Murrayfield match, which Edinburgh won 48-47, but Batut never got closer than the substitutes bench for a team currently lying ninth in the French League ahead of more celebrated city rivals, Stade Francais.

Murray said: “Ghezal is very a uncompromising type who can make a real nuisance of himself.

“As for Batut, he typifies the way Racing play. They have a powerful pack, but they are not rangy. Rather, their pack tends to be based on smaller 
forwards who get about the pitch contesting breakdown ball.

“I’ve watched Edinburgh a few times on television and they don’t seem to have been firing. If they are to get their European campaign back on track it will be a tough assignment, 
but one thing Edinburgh have in their favour is the extra 
importance placed on this 
competition at home.

“If some in France tend to take it or leave it, the Scottish teams really embrace the Heineken Cup and the extra 
urgency that brings could count heavily in their favour.”

Meanwhile, Murray, now 36, has another two years to run on his contract, but admits he is starting to think ahead to a coaching career.

“Coaching is something that certainly interests me, although I suspect it might be in France rather than back home – or perhaps the USA where I have connections,” said Scotland’s second most capped player and one who has made two more appearances than third-placed Mike Blair.

Bradley explains call to leave out Parker

Edinburgh RUGBY coach Michael Bradley has defended his decision to relegate talismanic second row Perry Parker to the bench for tomorrow’s Heineken Cup clash with Racing Metro in Paris, writes BILL LOTHIAN.

Since returning from injury, Parker has started the two wins which helped Edinburgh end a seven-match losing streak.

However, Bradley said of the four changes – all in the tight five – from the side which beat Connacht last time out: “We have rotated the front row on a regular basis and (second row) Grant Gilchrist is quality, having been involved in the national squad.”

n Scotland’s Jim Hamilton is today being linked with a move away from Gloucester, with Montpellier favourites to pip a Racing Metro side understood to have been close to signing the second row last summer for his signature.