Rugby: New Accies coach Jonny Else raring to go

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Of the Capital’s three RBS Premiership sides, Edinburgh Accies have endured the greatest upheaval during the off season. Now, newly installed head coach Jonny Else is raring to go in a season that will also see the Raeburn Place men involved in the British & Irish Cup.

Else, who was previously assistant coach, moved into the top job after the departure of Simon Cross for Worcester Warriors in the summer. He is relishing the challenge which has been made even tougher by the loss of stalwart Dan Teague who skippered the club for seven seasons.

The highly-rated Cross had been widely tipped to progress up the coaching ladder, only the timing and destination of the move being uncertain. That smoothed the way for the new man at the helm, who said: “It was relatively seamless. The way Simon’s career had progressed it was always going to happen and we had a contingency plan in place. Everyone was delighted for him.”

For Else, assuming the additional responsibilities has been made easier by the contributions from his assistant Malcy McVie, and Edinburgh back rower Roddy Grant, who has been drafted in to take on the role of defence coach that was previously the remit of Cross. Meanwhile, the club’s director of rugby Bob Easson has also been available to impart his substantial knowledge and organisational skills.

The loss of the influential Teague was a significant blow but his departure has offered an opportunity for several younger players to stake a claim for a starting berth in the back row and sees lock Greg Campbell marking his 12th season at the club with promotion to the captaincy. “You don’t replace Dan Teague and it would be silly to try to do that. I played with Dan and was also fortunate to coach him, and I know how big a part he played,” added Else. “But we have a strong group of experienced players and that core group is led by Greg. He knows the club and he knows the players. He has already stepped up to the mark.”

Despite the added demands created by the club being involved in the British & Irish Cup this season, Else has remained loyal to the men who clinched fourth spot in the league last time. Edinburgh development player Phil Cringle is among a small number of recruits, while Jamie Sole’s return after spells with London Scottish and Newcastle Falcons offers additional competition behind the scrum.

“We’ve had a few players come in but overall we’ve backed the boys who did the job last season. They are a year older and a year wiser. We’ve done well in the pro draft but it’s all about developing the players we’ve got. We have a fairly settled squad and it’s now about pushing on. That goes for Malcy and me as well – we want to be pushing ourselves as well.”

Now, with pre-season preparations under his belt, and the club also buoyed by the news that redevelopment plans for Raeburn Place have been approved, Else is brimming with enthusiasm as he looks ahead to tomorrow’s opener at home to Glasgow Hawks (kick-off 3pm).

The newly promoted visitors will pose a stiff test and the incoming Accies coach expects nothing less than a tough opener to a campaign that promises to be every bit as intense as last year’s engrossing affair.

“We know Hawks will be a very good team but we will focus on ourselves.” said Else. “It’s up to us to take the initiative and play to our strengths.”

Like all of the other coaches concluding their preparations for what promises to be another tense title race, he is adamant that the winners will be the spectators who choose to spend their Saturday afternoons on the sidelines.

“I think every game will be close and we know that we need to get as many points as possible each week.

“Our preparations and training have been good and with the plans for the Raeburn Place redevelopment there is a real buzz about the club. Hopefully, we will get some spectators down and then it’s up to us to step up to the plate and make sure they enjoy it.”