Solemn Alan Solomons is taking the long view

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend, left, joins Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons as they launch the 2013/2014 Heineken Cup. Picture: SNS
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend, left, joins Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons as they launch the 2013/2014 Heineken Cup. Picture: SNS
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As another Heineken European Cup looms, Edinburgh Rugby require a win at Cardiff on Sunday to avoid their worst start to the domestic season for nine years and create some momentum heading into the blue riband event.

Not since season 2004-05 have the Capital outfit failed to win twice in their opening five games.

However, new coach Alan Solomons is not for dwelling on statistics as he tries to right the Edinburgh ship, insisting long-term planning is paramount.

“Whatever the stat is I have no idea,” said South African Solomons whose team have so far beaten Dragons and lost to Munster, Ospreys and Scarlets along the way, adding: “Edinburgh Rugby is where it is and clearly the last two years have not been good. They had the great Heineken Cup run (to the semi-final) and that was fantastic.

“But one has got to look at it in totality and in that Pro 12 year they didn’t do well; last year they didn’t do well in either competition.

“We are where we are with Edinburgh [and] it is not a question of statistics.

“It is a question of going through the process.”

That means continuing what Solomons refers to as a “pre-season” but what has that meant and will it still be necessary when Edinburgh open their Euro campaign at home to Munster on Saturday week?

What’s more, still on the subject of stats, will Edinburgh have had time to address an obvious frailty that sees their tries conceded number 15 as opposed to seven during the 04-05 season?

“I’ve taken the same approach as I have from the beginning,” said Solomons whose side’s five tries are the same as in 04-05. He added: “These two months are our pre-season, the first two months of competition, that is.

“The Heineken Cup forms part of that in as much as we play two Heineken Cup matches during the course of those first two months.

“We are involved in a process with Edinburgh and we have to go through that process.

“It (pre-season) has nothing to do with the gym. we have not been able to do the functional part of conditioning because the functional part is linked to the rugby part so that is starting. (It is about) our game strategy, attack strategy and defensive system and strategy.

“That is all stuff that has to be done during September and October.”

The message from Solomons is that, while trying to win every game, he is determined not to be rushed or to cut corners and that selections have been evolving so that there is no need to take the wraps off a specially prepared Euro line-up, one exception being half back Greig Laidlaw who is expected back from injury on Sunday.

Asked if he had a specific team in mind for the Euro opener Solomons, speaking at the tournament’s first-ever Scottish launch, at the Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow, said: “We have been fairly consistent with our selection throughout. Injuries have resulted in other players getting opportunities (but) we want to look for a measure of consistency that will facilitate the progress of this team.”

As for comeback kid Laidlaw, he shares Solomons’ desire for success but appears slightly more convinced that the team are well on the road to taking on board new systems – even to the extent of admitting it could be a completed work by the time of the Euro kick-off albeit more by coincidence than planning.

“The Heineken Cup will be a fresh start for us but I’m looking forward to the game this weekend as being important.

“Before reaching a Heineken Cup tournament we all love, we need to try and win at Cardiff.

“The pre-season aspect is just because new coaches came in late.

“Things are bedding in. This pre-season work is not going to last much longer. We’re pretty much there now.

“With this weekend’s game and moving into the Heineken Cup I’d like to think we are starting to come out of that (early) phase to pick up some wins.

“The way things have worked we will hit ground running in Heineken Cup although it might be more by timing than planning.”

Meanwhile, Laidlaw is hoping a political dispute that threatens the future of the European tournament in present format with English and French clubs opting out can be resolved not least so as out-of-contract players can start planning futures either in present clubs or elsewhere.

“You can separate yourself from politics – there are always rumblings including what you hear in the press – but there are people in place to sort that out on the Union’s behalf.

“Contracts will be a little up in the air, though, and the better they can sort it out with clubs the better from that point of view,” said Laidlaw who is in the final year of his deal with Edinburgh.