Tom Brown urges Edinburgh not to take Zebre lightly
The man who scored Edinburgh's late winning try in last Saturday's thrilling 36-35 victory over Harlequins said the squad are determined to keep the good times rolling when they return to Guinness PRO12 action hosting Italian strugglers Zebre tonight.
The 26-year-old Tom Brown and his team-mates will be aiming to make it four wins in a row under new interim head coach Duncan Hodge and he revealed, not surprisingly, that spirits in the camp were high.
“Things have been very positive over the past couple of weeks,” said Brown. “Obviously we’ve got a few wins under our belts. We’ve been playing some good exciting rugby as well.”
Brown knows Edinburgh will now be expected to deliver another big win tonight against the team that are currently propping up the PRO12 standings.
“It’s definitely a big opportunity. Zebre are a tough team. They’ll look to play, offload and keep the ball alive. We had a huge win last week and it’s about keeping the bar at that level.”
But Brown insisted there will be no complacency and that, amid the euphoria of last week’s Euro thriller, it was short of a perfect performance.
“You can’t underestimate any team in this league,” said the flier. “Zebre have had some good results down the years and this season they were beating Connacht 22-10 before, unfortunately for them, the game was abandoned due to bad weather. They’ll come here with nothing to lose. If we’re not at the races they’ll make it a difficult night for us.
“I think last week was a great day for the club. The support we had was excellent and it was one of those days that get people talking.
“We had a comfortable lead at half-time and something we have been working on is that when we do have a lead like that it’s about not dropping the standards in the second half.
“Harlequins got on top and found a way to get into the game through the mauls and exploited a bit of ill discipline from us, too. Against Zebre we’ve got to stay squeaky clean and not allow those penalties to get them into the game.”
Hodge has made four changes to the team that edged Quins, in the pack, as new Argentine tighthead prop Felipe Arregui, who made his debut off the bench at the weekend, will make his first Edinburgh start as he replaces WP Nel, whose neck injury has ruled him out of the autumn Tests, while hooker Stuart McInally makes a direct swap from the bench with Ross Ford.
In the back-row, Magnus Bradbury switches from blindside flanker to No. 8 with the incoming Viliame Mata at blindside in what will also be his first home start.
John Hardie gets his chance at openside, with Hamish Watson rested.
Hodge, meanwhile, insisted that any possibility of Scotland centre Huw Jones potentially coming to the club was “not on my radar”.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter has suggested that attempts are being made to bring the Stormers midfielder, who earned his first cap on the recent Japan tour, to either Edinburgh or Glasgow.
The 22-year-old was born in Edinburgh but mainly raised in England and made his breakthrough into professional rugby in South Africa, where he attended university.
Edinburgh might be viewed as more in need of a top-class centre than the Warriors at present, but Hodge said: “It’s the first I’ve heard. I’ve no idea. All we are really doing is preparing for Friday night’s game. It’s news to me. That has not been on my radar. Those conversations are happening within the SRU in collaboration with Edinburgh and Glasgow. I’ve not had any involvement.”
Jones still has a year to run on his contract with Western Province, who run the Cape Town-based Stormers. And his agent, who also represents South Africa-born Scotland caps WP Nel and Josh Strauss, told the Evening News that he is “expected to be playing Super Rugby next season”.
Western Province have been suffering financial woes of late, however, with a reported £650,000 annual loss and a legal dispute over commercial rights which has led to them being sued for £4.3 million by a marketing firm. So they may be willing to let Jones go for a fee.
Edinburgh: 15. Blair Kinghorn, Damien Hoyland, 13. Chris Dean, 12. Phil Burleigh, 11. Tom Brown, 10. Jason Tovey, 9. Sean Kennedy, 1. Allan Dell, 2. Stuart McInally, 3. Felipe Arregui, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist (c), 6. Viliame Mata, 7. John Hardie, 8. Magnus Bradbury.
Replacements: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Jack Cosgrove. 18. Murray McCallum, 19. Fraser McKenzie, 20. Cornell Du Preez, 21. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22. Michael Allen, 23. Glenn Bryce.