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Edinburgh boost squad for next season all in one day

Hamish Watson
Hamish Watson has ignored foreign interest - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Edinburgh have further bolstered their squad ahead of next season with the announcement of five signings on what the Edinburgh PR department have dubbed #MagicMonday.

Chief headline for cynical types like us will be the retention of Hamish “Pinball” Watson on a new two year deal but there is a boost for both forwards and backs from further afield.

6ft 4in, 115kg flanker Nick Haining – who has previously represented Jersey Reds – will make the move north from Bristol Bears in the summer. Haining is Australian, but Scottish qualified.

He’ll add some further strength in depth in that back-row where we’ve got a lot of internationals. He’s a very good player and he’s keen to put his hand up and try to push himself into the national squad as well. He’s a big boy, carries the ball very well and is a good footballer.

Richard Cockerill on Nick Haining

Adding more back rows is worrying for Edinburgh fans who see a squad stacked with a lot of our favourites, but with Barclay, Ritchie, Mata and Bradbury currently signed to deals there’s going to be limited room for those left. As Sandy’s tweet below shows, Luke Hamilton, Ally Miller and a few others are all out of contract this year. I’m sure the Warrior Nation – who are panicking about contract news again – might like a couple of Cockerill-toughened forwards to help them out in certain areas but Edinburgh seem to have pinned down the best ones.

Also inbound in the pack is Southern Kings hooker Mike Willemse (26) who has been brought in to cover the inevitable absences of Stuart McInally on Scotland duty, on a two year deal.

He’s a very competent hooker that plays in the style of Stuart Mclnally. We’ve got a good selection of Scottish hookers, but Mike is a guy who’ll be with us all year round and will no doubt push everybody to the next level.

Richard Cockerill

It suggests that cap centurion Ross Ford could be either retiring or moving on, come the end of the season. We’re hearing rumours someone in France D2 might pick up a 100-cap international and British & Irish Lion for a bargain rate!

Richard Cockerill has long-since announced his desire for a “Goneva-style” winger hailing from the Pacific so with that in mind, he’s signed two.

They are Perpignan wing and Fiji Sevens player Eroni “The Sledgehammer” Sau (29) and Fiji Sevens captain
Kalione Nasoko (28) who were both part of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Sevens silver medal-winning team.

Kalione Nasoko made his Fiji Sevens debut in 2016 and was named in the HSBC World Series Dream Team in his first season on the circuit. The winger/centre was also awarded Player of the Final at the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens as well as picking up winners’ medals in Hamilton, Vancouver, Singapore, Hong-Kong and London. To date he’s played 142 games on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens circuit, scoring 63 tries.

Kalione brings something different to our back-three. He gives us a little bit more of an x-factor and, as you see with the good teams around Europe, you need that type of threat.”

Richard Cockerill

Sau made his Fiji Sevens debut in 2017 and earned him the Rookie of the Season title and a place in the overall Series Dream Team that year.

After speaking with Richard Cockerill and my friend Viliame Mata, I knew it would be a great move for my rugby career and also for my family. I can’t wait to work hard in the summer to earn a place in the team next year.

Eroni Sau

A stronger Fijian contingent in Scotland – a pretty alien environment compared to Suva, weatherwise at least – can only help all of them grow and improve as well as teaching the art of unpredictability to our homegrown talents like Darcy Graham.

The final announcement of the day was either going to please Edinburgh fans looking for a scrum-half or those desperate to hang on to Hamish Watson, and as it is Watson will stay with the club until 2021.

We’ve got a great coaching staff and I want to win something with Edinburgh. If that takes two years or ten years, it doesn’t matter. This group of players and coaches is going places and I love the direction that the club is moving in.

Hamish Watson

So with the pack looking pretty well reinforced for next season it’s the backline that is still shrouded in a little fog. Tom Brown, Damien Hoyland, Nathan Fowles and Sean Kennedy are both still out of contract. The backline has been bolstered with the Fijians, but can we see Cockerill leaving Charlie Shiel possibly the only backup to Henry Pyrgos should the situation continue? Seems likely one of them at least will be retained, unless there’s any money left in the bank…

What we also know for next season: Allan Dell is set to join London Irish; Glasgow prop Jamie Bhatti has already been announced as his replacement.

52 Responses

  1. Haining has more chance of being capped by Australia – it’s laughable Cockerill is talking about him being keen to represent Scotland – so am I, sadly I am 52 with a pot belly – but I have just as much chance as Haining.

    Not particularly happy with his signing as we produce back rows for fun here and I would much rather we tried out the u20s than some journeyman who happens to have a Scottish granny.

    1. Edinburgh’s results during international windows.

      away loss to zebre (34-16)
      away loss to dragons (18-12)
      away loss to munster (44-14)
      away loss to kings (25-21)
      home loss to cardiff (17-19)

      Anything we can do to bolster the squad should be well received and Haining may do just that. He is in for backup so we don’ have to select Lewis Wynne, Mungo Mason or Senitiki Nayolo…(even Ally Miller) who probably don’t cut it at this level.

      1. I’d rather give Miller another year to prove that he can – he’s had two excellent performances that I have seen so far this season – than import some journeyman Aussie, who has had 6 months of prem rugby.

      2. I agree. Miller is tall though and if he struggled with putting on bulk then the 7s circuit wont have helped. Would have liked to see him pulled from 7s and told that if he can make whatever weight target between now and the beginning of next season that he’ll get a shot. Think he showed hes got the ability when he was called on.

      3. Yeah I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miller get more game time in the international window next season along with Haining and Crosbie. My main point is we had a definite shortage during the international windows and our backups aren’t winning us games. May come in handy.

  2. There were rumours of Nic Groom the Western Province scrum half joining Edinburgh , maybe saving a signing announcement or two for later in the season.

  3. Wrong thread, but…….

    Rory Hutchinson POTM in the English premiership & in Stuart Barnes’s world team of the week

    1. He’s been brilliant the last couple of months, scoring and setting up tries all over the place. Would love Townsend to give him a shot during the warm-ups as currently the most promising backup for Jones.

    1. That’s what i’m worried about. He’s the only good 13 to come out of our u20’s system since Mark Bennett.

  4. Hutchinson has said he wants Scotland not England, it would be wise to cap him this summer. He’s only 23 and on the evidence of the last few weeks is a better overall player than Jones, who is a bit of a 1-trick pony – all he does is score tries, and has played second fiddle to Grigg at Glasgow, has hands like cow’s tits.

    1. ‘All he does is score tries….’ Yes, that’s a major fault in an international outside centre, isn’t it?
      Jones hasn’t had a great few months with form and injury but he’s proved he can deliver at Test level against the top sides in world rugby.
      If he’s fit and regains form, he has to be in the RWC squad. We need players like him who are capable of taking the oppo by surprise, and at pace.
      Up front I’m happy we’re ready to take on any pack in front of us in Japan. Behind, we need the Russells, Hoggs and players like Jones to create chaos in opposition defences.
      The guy surely isn’t a two season wonder.

      1. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. He is one of the best runners I’ve seen. His combination of balance, speed, agility, strength and attacking instinct is world class. Problem is though he is a pretty poor passer of the ball which is pretty unforgivable in professional rugby and has been found out a bit. Grigg isn’t even a renown passer but I’d be confident this is why he is above him in the pecking order at Glasgow.

        Once Jones sorts our that part of his game he is a shoo-in, but for now i think we really need to see how Hutchinson gets on and pray for the return of fitness (and form) for Mark Bennett, Duncan Taylor and even Alex Dunbar. For the last 3 years its really been a case of last man standing when it comes to our centre options which has been incredibly frustrating.

      2. Jones has had a greater impact on the test stage than Bennett or Taylor, excellent players both. It’s also worth remembering that the vast majority of his rugby in SA the as Currie Cup not Super Rugby, yet he had no problems at excelling after being chucked straight into the 6N. He does need to improve his passing – but so did Jonathan Davies and he has been the leading 13 in the world for the past 4-5 years. The things Jones is good at can’t be coached though. He still has potential to be one of the best 13s in the world – can’t say that about Bennett, Taylor or Grigg.

      3. I’m not sure that Jones’ passing deficiencies aren’t over-exagerated. He did indeed have a run of games (6N until end of season 2018?) where he had some shockers, but as soon as the season ended he went in for a hand op. So, I wonder whether he was being continually selected due to a dearth of better options even though he was playing with a hand injury? It’s just a thought, but his passing did suddenly seem to become awful, when it hadn’t bene particularly noticably bad previously.

      4. Grigg isn’t above him in the Glasgow pecking order. If you look at big games where they’ve both been fit. Jones is also a good passer of the ball and a solid defender, but has been caught out on a handful of occasions only. The one brain fart (no worse than your average Horne, Price, Russell mistake) was after a line break he made, which seems to have sealed these thoughts in a few people’s minds. But, the lines he cuts are second to none (including the pass of the century) and games he has been brilliant in include: NZ, Eng twice, Australia, Ireland, Wales, MoM Currie Cup final. Truth is he’s had a run of injuries at Glasgow. But will always be one of most naturally talented players on any pitch – and we only have 4 players in that category Hogg, Russell, Jones, Graham.

      5. Im not sure Jones is a good fit for Glasgow i think he would be a better player at Edinburgh..

        Bring back Bennett to Glasgow also, i reckon he would rediscover his best form.

      6. @rocket science.

        ‘Grigg isn’t above him in the Glasgow pecking order. If you look at big games where they’ve both been fit’

        I had a look.

        Jones has started 6 games this season (3 in the champions cup). His last start was against Lyon (15th Dec). His last start in the pro14 was against Zebre (5th Oct).

        I hope he turns his season around once he gets fit but it was the same story last season too. He started just 5 games in the entire season.

      7. Neil : I dont disagree about Jones but would suggest different words. ‘Jones is WASTED at Glasgow’. Edinburgh is no better, I disagree with you on that suggestion.

        Jones is best suited to the upper quartile of the Premiership, a better fit for his playing strengths and most likely better for personal reasons.

        If you just read the blog and the criticism of Jones, you will get exactly what I mean in my opener. Jones arrived as a Currie Cup winner, Millfield educated and a man of obvious talent. Not the easiest way to integrate with a team of big egos.

        Just an opinion , no facts to back it up, but some will get it.

      8. @bazz – That he started Saracens at home tells you all you need to know. Taking into account injury lay offs, and time back in the team before other games, no surprises.

      9. I heard on the grapevine (reputable source) that Dave Rennie didn’t want to resign Jones and said he didn’t want to spend Glasgow’s salary cash on someone he didn’t rate as a player. Toony wanted him kept in Scotland (presumably for player welfare) so the SRU pay his salary outside Glasgow’s budget.

      10. This sounds like utter garbage based on a possible half truth. Much more likely that Jones staying was linked to Rennie staying. And that if there’s any cash out the SRU it’s to keep an expensive marquee player in face of well reported competitionwhen Hogg and Russell have already left.

      11. Would be a bit odd if Rennie didn’t rate a player with 10 tries in 17 appearances at test level.

        Wasn’t Jones the subject of O’Halloran telling the press Scottish rugby players were mentally weak because they couldn’t take critical feedback and use it to improve? Maybe it is an attitude/ personality thing? Either way Jones should move in after the RWC if he isn’t settled at Glasgow. No point letting his talent wither as he could be world class but needs to recover confidence.

      12. @ rocket science.

        Dunbar also started against saracens. But he became 4th choice and was released not long after.

        In the last 2 seasons Grigg has started 32 and Jones has started 11. Passing aside I still believe Jones is a better player but Rennie must have his doubts.

  5. Have to say its incredibly tough to pick at Edinburgh 23 for Munster.

    FR- . Dell/Mcinally/Nel
    2nd R- Gilchrist/Toolis
    Br- . Ritchie/Mata/Watson
    Hb – Pyrgos/Hickey
    Centre – Dean/Jonstone
    Back 3 – VDM/Fife/Graham

    Subs – Ford/Schoeman/Berghan/Mckenzie/Bradbury/Kennedy/VDW/Scott

    1. Schoeman, Barclay, van der Walt and Scott all have to start, for me. Shiel or Fowles ahead of Kennedy on the bench.

      1. Yeah Schoeman, Barclay and Van Der Walt should start. Would keep Scott on the bench though. Dean and Johnstone have been playing well together all season so not worth breaking up that partnership.

        I’d have Fowles on the bench. Think he’s actually proved himself a fairly good impact player but is just completely incapable of running a game from the start.

        That team would be a match for anything Munster can put out. Even moreso at Murrayfield.

    2. On the contrary I think the Edinburgh side probably picks itself bar one spot in the backrow. I think this is how Cockers will go –

      Dell. Ford. Berghan

      1. So you’d leave out Hamish Watson, one of the best opensides in world rugby?
        Admittedly Cockers has to leave out one of the backrow, but I’d start with Watson at 7.

      2. Watson has to start, i think it’s a big risk having Barclay or Scott starting such a big game when we have some strong quality options behind them.

        1 game for both of them is not enough time to show consistency & form, strong argument for them making the bench.

  6. Oops – too much hurry. comment updated. meant to keep Watson and put Bradbury on bench with the reasoning that he can cover all the back row and given that I think this will be a forwards battle first and foremost I think he may have the edge on Ritchie in that department.
    Watson and Mata are nailed on. Its the third spot thats up for debate

    1. Agree with your team Sandy, team pretty much picks itself and that’s probably our strongest 23.

  7. Barclay should start. Hugely impressive shift last week. If we had centres that carry into contact like he does i’d be delighted. Harsh on Magnus but i’m sure he could have a big 30 mins off the bench. I’d have Dean at 12 if fit. Worried for JJ’s form, i think it has dipped quite a bit since those Euro highlights. Defence especially. PS Loved the comment that all Huw Jones does is score tries. :-)

  8. Glasgow team is a fair bit easier to choose from despite them having better depth compared to Edinburgh.

    FR- Kebble/Turner/Fagerson
    Lock – Gray/Harley
    BR – Gibbins/Fagerson/Brown*
    HB – Horne/Thomson
    Centre – Johnson/Mcdowall
    Back 3 – Matawalu/Hogg/Hughes

    Sub- Allan/Nuke/Cummings/Harley/Fusaro/Price/ Hastings/Steyn

    1. I am certain Hastings will start ahead of Thompson. However, he needs to have been calmed down since his cameo v Cheetahs where he played like Finn on something!
      Also, I think Stein has played superbly and must be under consideration to start.

      1. Thomson has not lost a match ever when starting for Glasgow i think, he has had quite a few MoM performances & was warriors player of the month, not sure what more he can do to get a shot.

        At the same time though Hastings is a such a powerful good player that its very hard to drop him.

    1. Well that’s the last time I try and be nice and give out some inside information!

      It came from a Glasgow player and I can see Rennie’s point…why waste all your salary pot on a player who never turns up for his club?

      1. Scotty, please don’t let the grumpy ones put you off. There is a heavy level of cynicism in some quarters. Rumours and inside chat always welcome as long as they are presented as such!

      2. The comment you made is believable, Scotty. If true then good to know a player who seldom plays or plays well for us is not consuming a large chunk of our player budget.

      3. Scotty, just keep it coming , the terraces and the changing room are poles apart. Not everyone believes what they cannot see.

        Unlike you, I dont see Rennie’s point, I would think it says more about him, than Huw Jones. If he was saying this is not the correct environment for Huw Jones, I would agree.

        Keep posting , we dont all agree, we do all love the game.

  9. Scotty it usually comes from the same bitter sarcastic person just ignore him, i for one am always curious & appreciate these bits of info as do others on the blog.

    1. (Neil, can you go back to posting using your regular email address pls as I have unblocked it due to good behaviour. That way fake Neils will be easy to identify and prevent us from wielding the banhammer unduly.)

  10. Just rewatched that second half. Extraordinary: They just need to play that as motivation before any game now. Forever.

    Don’t think I’ve heard anyone say it, but McGuigan had a fair old game too.

    Hoping Hastings gets the start this weekend. Bought a couple of tickets on a whim.

    1. Also Johnny Wilkinson loves Finn Russell and doesn’t hide it. Good guy. Even Woodward is gushing.

  11. Nathan Fowles is off to Ealing Trailfinders. That’s been announced by the Trailfinders on their official Twitter.

    [edited for duplication rule #3 + #4]

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