At Michael Bradley’s press conference today, comparisons were drawn with the dawn of Munster’s era in Heineken Cup and the potential this fixture could have – especially with a win – to capture the imagination of supporters. He feels it is key that the fans can “have a relationship with the players and the side,” to get used to and get ownership of the team and the “club”.
With a crowd upwards of 35,000 now expected to pass through the Murrayfield turnstiles, Bradley paid tribute to the work that Craig Docherty and his team have done attracting supporters: “[it] has been superb in terms of getting the message out. There’s a very positive feel-good factor about the challenge we have tomorrow…it’s fantastic for Edinburgh Rugby to be competing in the Quarter Final of Heineken Cup … and the fact we are playing at home gives us a great chance.”
This was, he felt, a clear chance to start building something special in Scottish rugby.
“We see this as a massive opportunity to push on in terms of numbers for next year.” His main point, though, was that on the field Munster qualified for the knockout stages year on year when building their Heineken Cup juggernaut.
“That’s the challenge for next year.”
For now though, Bradley’s focus is very much on tomorrow, and Toulouse.
“I’ve been very mindful it is an occasion we can look back on with a lot of pride but we have a lot of work to do between now and the end of that match Saturday. The focus for us is the 80 minutes. If we do our job properly we have an excellent chance of winning.”
Picked to do the job are an Edinburgh XV containing few surprises. The youthful nature of the Edinburgh back division extends to Tom Brown getting his first Heineken Cup start, a pick made on form at the expense of Chris Paterson.
The first-string pack are settled and appear here as expected, but with Lozada out injured the second row cover is wearing pretty thin. The old guard such as Phil Godman are now increasingly resigned to roles on the bench, or in the case of Chris Paterson, watching from the sidelines.
Bradley praised the players who have deputised over the Six Nations period as “exceptional”, including Talei, Grant and McInally, and said there were a number of close calls in selection.
Speaking on the difference in form between Edinburgh’s league and European performace, Bradley put the difference in form down to taking chances in the Cup but not the RaboDirect PRO12 rather than specific personnel. The first string half-backs Mike Blair and Greig Laidlaw once again start and will look to move Toulouse around the park.
“Before you even see their team announcement, you know they’ll have a powerful pack, and strong. First phase for them is very important and I assume they will attack us there. If they don’t get a return there, it’s open season in terms of the game and how it is played and that’s where we want to get it to.
“We’ve shown in the past over 80 minutes we can turn a perceived advantage into a disadvantage.”
Toulouse themselves have selected from their incredible depth but still manage the odd surprise such as the selection of Yannick Jauzion at fullback.
Having already beaten one team of French and International superstars, Bradley felt Toulouse were a different prospect.
“They’re very athletic, it’s a step up from Racing Metro as their positions in the league in France would suggest, and the history of Toulouse in the competition.
“But the players are gaining confidence playing these big sides, and we take a lot of confidence from the win both home and away.
Bradley was full of praise for the skill of their players saying: “The thing about Toulouse is it doesn’t really matter who they put out on to the park. All of them are exceptional footballers, all of them can do extraordinary things with the ball, you just have to not give them space and time.”
“That’s the job of Edinburgh Rugby on Saturday.”
Edinburgh: Brown, Jones, De Luca, Scott, Visser, Laidlaw, Blair; Jacobsen, Ford, Cross, Gilchrist, Cox, Denton, Rennie, Talei
Replacements: Kelly, Traynor, Gilding, McInally, Grant, Leck, Godman, Thompson
Toulouse: Jauzion, Matanavou, Fritz, David, Donguy, Beauxis, Burgess; Poux, Servat, Johnston, Maestri, Albacete, Bouilhou, Dusautoir (capt), Picamoles
Replacements: Tolofua, Human, Montes, Lamboley, Doussain, Poitrenaud, Nyanga, Galan