EDINBURGH No 8 Nick Haining looks likely to be suspended for three or four weeks at a citation hearing in London today (Wednesday) following an alleged offence in last Friday’s match against Agen. If that is the decision, the club appears set to accept it rather than resorting to an appeal.
Haining has been cited for allegedly “striking Thomas Vincent (Agen No 10) with his head in the 33rd minute of the match in contravention of Law 9.12”. The incident in question involved a clear-out a breakdown in the Challenge Cup fixture, which Edinburgh won 31-10.
The sanction for the offence carries entry points of a six-week ban for a low-end offence, ten weeks for one in the mid range and 16 to 104 weeks at the top end. Those starting points can then be reduced for previous good behaviour or increased if the player has committed similar offences before.
Haining has a good disciplinary record, so even if the panel finds him guilty as charged, they could opt to impose only a short ban – presuming they decide he committed a low-end offence with mitigating circumstances. While the Australian-born player has had an impressive start to his time with Edinburgh since signing from Bristol Bears in the summer, the squad is particularly strong in the back row, with John Barclay, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie and Bill Mata among those contending for places. A four-week suspension would see Haining miss Friday’s Challenge Cup match at home to Bordeaux, the PRO14 game at Munster and then the Cup double-header with Wasps.
Edinburgh made 12 changes for the Agen game and are expected to make considerable alterations again for Friday’s match at Murrayfield. “We are trying to rotate the squad a bit more,” assistant coach Duncan Hodge said. “It’s probably something we’ve not done that well and perhaps not had the squad to do.
“We’ve got to trust the players. The flipside is that when you select these players they’ve got to stand up and they did that at the weekend. This Friday, whoever’s selected will be no different.”
Bordeaux beat Wasps 40-30 in their first match, and are currently second in the Top 14 with just two defeats from nine games. But, while they are expected to be formidable opponents, Hodge believes that playing another French team so soon after Agen will make preparation easier.
“The attack and defensive analysis have been very similar. They’re quite alike. It happened last year – we had Toulon and Montpellier back to back. It was a bit of luck that that’s happened, but yeah, a lot of the messaging is similar.
“They’re a good side, they’re well coached, they have got some good individual players. They’re kind of typically French: they’re a big side, based around set piece and a sort of power game, so in that respect they’re no different to Agen, Montpellier and Toulon.
“We’re fit and in good condition and if we can stick to certain markers, we know we’ll be competitive against French teams. You want to keep the ball in play, keep those guys moving – you can’t have high turnovers which means a set piece. Not that we’re not good against set pieces, but you’ve got to think logically about the game and work it back.”
A win in France is commendable at any time, but Hodge was especially pleased by last Friday’s display given the inexperience in the starting line-up. Scrum-half Charlie Shiel, for example, was making his first start for the team after 11 appearances off the bench, and acquitted himself well according to the coach.
“It’s very different when you start a game from when you come off the bench for 20 minutes,” Hodge added. “I’ve been there – when you come off the bench for 20 minutes and everyone else is tired there’s more space and more holes, so it was great for Charlie. I thought he did well. In that first half you probably didn’t see what you experience normally from Charlie in terms of a line break. We saw the other side – the side we need to find out more about from Charlie, which is controlling a game and his kicking and his passing. He certainly did well in the first half, which is good.
“We’re delighted with Dan [Nutton, substitute scrum-half] too. He came off the bench for 20 minutes. Charlie probably tired a bit and Dan was really demonstrative and bossing forwards around and was involved in some good bits of defence and brought some tempo to the game. He was excellent.
“We made a lot of changes and the most pleasing thing was that a lot of guys got some game time and we performed well both sides of the ball. There was a lot of good performances from some guys that haven’t had masses of rugby, so that’s great for morale, it’s great for competition in terms of the Scotland guys coming back in, and it’s a fairly healthy camp just now.
“So it’s good. We’re probably ahead of where we were last year.”