Edinburgh today announced a pair of new locks to boost their pack; yesterday they announced a raft of departures at the end of the season. With the Heineken Cup now over for them, this weekend’s game against Treviso is that end. For some of the players who have been deemed surplus to Michael Bradley’s requirements, it will be a quick and possibly unforeseen departure.
One thing that has been clear from Edinburgh this season is that some of their backup players are not always good enough to compete against the top teams they will face in European or RaboDirect competition. Bradley has, wherever he can, clearly picked a “First XV” but his choices when they are being rested have been less settled. Many of these dirt-trackers are the ones that find themselves out of favour.
Out: Mike Blair, Phil Godman, Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly, Ulises Gamboa, Esteban Lozada, Jim Thompson, Alan MacDonald, Jack Gilding, Chris Paterson (ret)
In: Robert McAlpine, Perry-John Parker
While you wouldn’t be surprised that Ulises Gamboa or Esteban Lozada were moving on, you might have thought that Kyle Traynor or Jim Thompson might have had a future at the club.
Traynor has been capable if not outstanding and has picked up 3 caps. Thompson may yet find a home on the full-time sevens circuit, but his versatility and commitment have been very valuable to Edinburgh in times of injury and off the bench. Traynor and Thompson, like Alan MacDonald, would make very handy signings for somebody.
Jim will be disappointed not to have secured the starting fullback shirt that became for all purposes vacant as soon as Mossy stepped back from international rugby and injury began to take it’s toll. The great man himself, Chris Paterson, will also be heading for retirement from playing, but he will be kept around at Edinburgh in a non-playing role. You would imagine some sort of kicking or skills coaching position, but it could be ambassadorial. The SRU will need to be careful though, not to make the same sort of mistakes made elsewhere in giving unqualified coaches cushy positions due to their popularity or potential.
With the constant accusations of jobs for the boys and reshuffling so that no-one ever gets fired (cf Gregor Townsend), the letting go of players who have failed to cut it (in most but not all cases) is to some degree refreshing. They also tie up with the announcements that redundancies are to be made in the managerial structure. I should add that while it is never pleasant to see anyone lose their job in these tough times, I think it shows that SRU head honcho Mark Dodson is trying to clear up the bureaucracy and make a streamlined and more accountable governing body (which, given most of the good common sense thinking that has happened since he came in, makes Shufflegate look very odd), as well as I suppose a streamlined and accountable player base.
We wish all the players well with whatever they do next.
Out with the old(ish) and in with the new(ish). And so to the new.
Having inherited the Edinburgh squad this season, Bradley has rapidly begun to look for ways to mould it into his own team; into something harder and stronger to face a campaign on two fronts next season. He’s building a team of scrappers like his previous Connacht team, but one with a big dollop of attack stuck on top.
Glasgow can happily rotate their team to rest the top internationals and still field a bench boasting the likes of Welsh, Low, Kellock, Barclay or Jackson. Their heights this season may not have been as high as Edinburgh, but their level of consistency has been so much greater. Edinburgh have struggled with depth in all areas save perhaps scrum-half and back row, and there seems to be a much clearer difference in level across the spectrum of the squad.
With the news that Traynor, Kelly and Gilding are out the door, and John Yapp and WP Nel inbound there may still be room for a prop or two in the Edinburgh pack – especially at loosehead and perhaps a hooker too. Whoever does come in will need to be religiously drilled on scrummaging; the set-piece remains Edinburgh’s biggest issue.
Speaking of set piece, we’ve been banging on a bit about Edinburgh’s need for at least one quality lock, and today they signed two, although Rob McAlpine has been on loan from Glasgow for a big chunk of the season and has already played for Edinburgh a few times. He was also very impressive a few years back for the U20s and has been one to watch for some time. Hopefully this season he gets a chance to step up alongside Grant Gilchrist and show it’s not all about the big guy from Glasgow/Sale. Although the Warriors may now have another lock spot open too…
From what we’ve have heard from a few sources, Perry-John Parker is a big, big man with the ability to run from post to post. However, some have also suggested that he does so as someone not gifted with a great ability to read the game. He also comes in after a season with rock-bottom Championship side, Esher, who have struggled (while on some days this season you’d fancy Esher to beat Edinburgh, that’s not the level we aspire to).
Even if his game awareness is not great, PJ Parker (as he shall henceforth be known) could well be the kind of player Edinburgh need. They have some big young men, but they need a brute to hit rucks and tear down drives for 80 minutes. They need someone to allow Denton and Talei to skip off without worrying so much about tidying up. At 24, Parker can still be moulded. Not to the extent that Richie Gray was moulded from his teens, but at 6ft 8, he’s a big lump for Bradley to instil some fire in and turn him loose on teams. Sean Cox, but bigger, if you like. We will find out if he can cope with Heineken rugby, but with his size and reported engine it is a decent starting position. On whether or not he is Scots qualified, Parker said on Twitter “We are looking into this. Let’s hope so.”
Many will bemoan the lack of marquee signings, but Edinburgh now have five interchangeable locks, with Gilchrist slightly edging the position on potential. Depth over weight of name, it would seem.
Perry-John Parker (24), second-row
Date of birth: 25 June 1987 in Crawley
Height: 203cm (6’8”)
Weight: 118kg (18st 8lb)
2009-11 Haywards Heath, N3 (captain, 2010/11)
1999-2009: Worthing Raiders (Senior rugby, N2, aged 17 2004)
2009-11 – Sussex (captain 2010/2011)
Robert McAlpine (21), second-row
Date of birth: 26 March 1991 in Dundee
Height: 2.01m (6’7”)
Weight: 110kg (17st 3lb)
Former clubs/schools: Glasgow Academy, West of Scotland, Stirling County
Honours: Scotland U17, U18, U19, U20
Additional reporting: Alan Dymock