In the high pressure world of professional sport guys can ‘lose the heid’. Indeed, with every success story there is an Atlas-like struggle to achieve, while facing the crowd and the money-men. You only have to look at the fall of Tiger Woods and Wayne Rooney to see what pressure and conception can do. So when Edinburgh selected 23-year-old flanker Roddy Grant to be their captain some wondered if he could handle the pressure.
“I find it easier with the pressure on me,” Roddy Grant laughs.You know what, he might be right. With his job clearly defined there is no hiding place. “In the Edinburgh squad I face competition, which you need. Whilst I’m captain I have to keep performing. Rennie and MacDonald are both good players and I have to perform in order to keep my place. I have been happy with my performances and when we all get it right we play pretty awesome rugby.”
This attitude typifies what makes Grant so popular within Scottish rugby. Tenacious and workmanlike, he knows his role and plays it well. At points he has had to curb his enthusiasm, and he has also had to pick his battles, dropping out for Scotland-cap Rennie, but you will rarely see him give up a cause. Many fans believe the red-headed tearaway is a perfect option for a first cap, especially as Ally Strokosch drops out of the Scotland squad, but his single-mindedness again shines through. “Of course I would love to play for Scotland; it’s a goal of mine. But my priority is captaining and performing with Edinburgh. If it happens, it happens, but my focus, just now is on Leinster.”
This weekend Edinburgh face Leinster, a team they have already beaten this term, and while Grant doesn’t fear them he has a healthy respect. “We fly out tomorrow, and while there are rumours that we’re heading to a weakened Leinster team missing some Irish internationals, they have a quality squad. For example, if Sexton drops out Nacewa steps in. We’ll have a few late fitness tests, too, so the guys selected will have to perform.”
Performance is a word lodged in Grant’s lexicon. Certainly it must play on his mind, as Skipper, and as a leading young player in the Magners League. It must also have played on his mind that Edinburgh hadn’t been getting the results in their first five games. Three losses in a row led to two games in the Heineken Cup that slipped away. These losses didn’t concern the flanker, though. “We were losing close games, but it was only because of our skills at certain points in the game. There’s nothing you can do about dropped balls so there wasn’t really any soul searching. We’ve sorted the little things in training and we’ve won three games in a row, in the league. Morale is high.”
Of course morale is important for any team, and it is clear to see Grant is enjoying his time at Edinburgh. When asked if any boys had gotten a lot of stick for their topless calendar he laughed heartily. “’Big Dunfy’ Fraser McKenzie! Last year’s ‘Mr. November’ looked a right state, covered in grease and stubble, and he’s done it again this season!” Also, when asked who would win in a fight between him and Chunk he simply stated “Chunk, hands down. He fights dirty.”
Winning is vital at this level and the pressure never subsides. Edinburgh need to start scoring a lot more tries, and turning over an Irish province, away, is no mean feat. Let’s hope Leinster don’t fight dirty, and Grant can perform to the level he is accustomed to. Four wins in a row would be a pretty good turnaround, and would definitely show Edinburgh can ‘keep the heid’.