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Edinburgh and Dragons seek turnaround in fortunes

Ben Toolis
Ben Toolis wins a lineout for Edinburgh Rugby - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Friday presents a busy day for Scottish rugby, with both Edinburgh and Glasgow in Guinness Pro12 action. While most eyes will be firmly fixed on the Warriors as they travel to Dublin to take on table topping Leinster, it’s my job to drag you, kicking and screaming, to the other end of the table as we set our sights on Myreside.

The Pro12 are really spoiling Edinburgh fans, as they get to welcome fellow strugglers Newport Gwent Dragons to the capital for their final home game of the 2016/17 season.

All jokes aside, while the Glasgow clash is undoubtedly the far more glamorous of the two games, both Edinburgh and Dragons will put everything on the line and be desperate to turn around their fortunes before the season ends.

The Dragons season has been mired in uncertainty, with the Newport-based side spending much of 2016/17 searching for substantial investment with the club teetering on the edge of collapse. The struggles off the pitch have undoubtedly had an impact on the field, with the Dragons arriving in Edinburgh in search of their first win in 10 games, their last victory coming back in January against Russian side Enisei.

While results have arguably improved slightly under acting head coach Duncan Hodge, with victories over Ulster, Stade Francais and a double over Harlequins since he replaced Alan Solomons last September, Edinburgh have been wildly inconsistent this season. A disappointing series of performances has seen them lose their last 8 games (their poorest run in the Pro12), including the recent 21-6 loss to Benetton Treviso, and leaves them just two points above the visiting side.

Edinburgh will want to end their first season experiment at Myreside on a high, and a home victory will not only prevent the Dragons leapfrogging them in the league, but it will also go some way to repaying their supporters for sticking with them through yet another disappointing season. A win will also help to give the team some positives to take into their final game of the season against Glasgow.

Dragons coach Kingsley Jones has made no secret of his desire to finish above Edinburgh this season and has named a good side, including the club’s leading try scorer Pat Howard and top points scorer Angus O’Brien, who punished Edinburgh last time they met, scoring 17 points in the Dragons 27-19 victory back in November.

Hodge has named four changes to the side that lost to Benetton a fortnight ago. Allan Dell returns to front row and is joined by George Turner, who makes his first start of the season at hooker. This is reportedly at the instigation of Richard Cockerill who wanted to see more of the rarely-picked Turner ahead of taking charge next season.

Ben Toolis starts at lock after his late withdrawal against Treviso. Junior Rasolea is the only change to the backline, starting at inside centre. Edinburgh will be captained by Grant Gilchrist, who recently signed a two year extension with the club, while Newport-born Jason Tovey starts against his former club at fly-half.

John Hardie makes his first appearance since injuring his MCL in the Six Nations victory over Wales, and is joined on a strong bench by fellow internationals Ross Ford, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and leading points scorer Duncan Weir.

Edinburgh: 15 G Bryce; 14 D Hoyland, 13 C Dean, 12 J Rasolea, 11 R Scholes; 10 J Tovey, 9 N Fowles; 1 A Dell, 1 G Turner, 3 S Berghan; 4 G Gilchrist (capt), 5 B Toolis; 6 V Mata, 7 H Watson, 8 C du Preez.

Replacements: R Ford, MMcCallum, K Bryce, F McKenzie, J Hardie, S Hidalgo-Clyne, D Weir, B Kinghorn.

Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Charlie Davies; 1 Thomas Davies, 2 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 3 Brok Harris, 4 Matthew Screech, 5 Cory Hill, 6 Lewis Evans (c), 7 Nic Cudd, 8 Ollie Griffiths.

Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Craig Mitchell, Rynard Landman, Harrison Keddie, Owain Leonard, Geraint Rhys Jones, Tom Prydie.

9 Responses

  1. I think Edinburgh’s focus for next season has to be to get a creative 10 in place. I’ve made no bones elsewhere on this blog of my feelings around Weir, and Tovey is similarly limited.

    The backs aren’t awful, but there is no creative force behind them, pulling the strings and releasing the runners. I would encourage the SRU to try to get a marquee signing at 10 – or at least a small marquee!

    1. I heard they are signing up Ben volavola, from rebels i believe he is at ? , would probaly bring some attacking intent at least , not sure how solid he is under pressure though.

      1. Can’t see trace of the rumour anywhere. Where did you hear it?

        At this stage of the season there aren’t many marquee signings left…except if the ARU choose to axe the rebels instead of the Force. Volavola is pretty flaky but still much better than anyone available to us now I’d guess. Huge departure in style.

        Edinburgh are also in talks with Robbie Fruen, Bath want to keep him but he wants to be released to play 7s for Samoa to qualify for 2019 RWC. It’s thought Edinburgh might offer a longer deal and allow him to pursue international aspirations. But he had major heart surgery a couple of years ago so is a gamble for a long contract.

        These leads maybe show Edinburgh’s ambition but also where we need to go looking in the market. Any big name player is going to have some significant caveats.

  2. Marty Banks (Highlanders) signing for Treviso next season, a missed opportunity for Edinburgh?

    1. Probably. Find it hard to think they will be able to make many big signings for next season. Cockerill will need a year to show some signs of growing a club culture and clear out some of the old contracts before it will become an attractive proposition, you’d imagine.

      1. Well at least there will be 100 or so Super Rugby players looking for a job…

  3. My tuppence worth…..Edinburgh need to follow the Glasgow model, however thats something I think they already tried to do with Solomons and it backfired horribly. Solomons seemed to be brought in with the expectation that he would build a solid pack and set piece, make the team very hard to beat, then they could look to start to build creativity on the back of that, but he became obsessed with bringing in journeymen backs and ignoring the basics.

    Perhaps Cockerill can hit the reset button and try again, because you can talk all you like about halfbacks, centres and wingers, but the bottom line is that with one or two notable exceptions, that forward pack at Edinburgh underperforms in every game. They have no heart, no drive, no passion to compete. They get bullied in contact, they lose lineouts in key positions and are so often out of position defensively that it’s no wonder Tovey or Weir can’t create anything, they’re more often than not knackered from tackling big midfield runners whilst the forwards run around like headless chickens.

    As a Warriors season ticket holder, I don’t get to see Edinburgh live very often, but when a mate was offered a couple of tickets through work to the La Rochelle game, I thought that would kick off the perfect weekend before my early morning flight on Sat down to London for the Saracens game on Sunday. So off we toddled to MF. Now my mate is not really a Rugby watcher. He dabbles in the 6 nations now and again, but really just for the craic rather than the rugby….after the first 15-20 mins of the :La Rochelle game he turned to me and said “these Edinburgh forwards have got a real attitude problem, they don’t really seem to be trying”… was so obvious it was embarassing. Once incident in particular sticks in my mind, where an Edinburgh forward goes down injured near the touchline. He sits there on his bahooky, waiting for the physio to run over to him. In the meantime, his abscence from the defensive line has left a gaping hole on the blind side…if all he did was manage to get to his feet and stand there, the French Scrumhalf wouldn’t have even considered going there, but as it was, the gap was huge, scrumhalf went blind and he was away….60m run in for a try (although I seem to remember there was also a shocking attempt at a cover tackle that we’ll maybe not mention). Now, if the player was truly hurt and unable to regain his feet, then thats just one of those things…..but when La Rochelle scored, he got back to his feet and ran quite confortably back to wait for the conversion….now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating injured players risking further injury by doing anything stupid…but do you really think a Ryan Wilson or a Jonny Gray would have sat on their backsides in that situation?

  4. Random question, but does anyone know a good bar in Edinburgh for catching the rugby? Hoping to find somewhere with a bit of atmosphere for the 1872 on Saturday. I can think of a fair few in Glasgow but none in Ed. Thanks.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion