Edinburgh in no rush to bring big guns back into action

Squad to face Benetton unlikely to show substantial changes

Magnus Bradbury
Magnus Bradbury returned to the Edinburgh ranks last weekend, but many of his Scotland colleagues may still be out for another two or three weeks. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.

WHILE Glasgow Warriors are eager to bring back some international reinforcements for their home game against the Southern Kings on Friday, Edinburgh appear in no rush to do the same thing as they prepare to face Benetton in Treviso on Saturday. Magnus Bradbury, Blair Kinghorn and Henry Pyrgos were the three members of the Scotland World Cup squad who saw action in the capital side’s impressive win over Scarlets last weekend, and they may also be the only three to take part in the PRO14 game in Italy.

That is in part because some of the members of Gregor Townsend’s squad are due more rest in any case before returning to play, and also because some players need time to get up to speed with Edinburgh’s new game plan, having been away from the club since early summer. But the fact that the team has been playing so well is also a factor: that victory against Scarlets was Edinburgh’s third from their four league matches to date, and although there is certainly no sense of complacency, nor is there a feeling that there is a need for undue haste.

“Yeah, that’s the thing,” assistant coach Duncan Hodge said today (Tuesday) when asked if that good form meant there was no rush to bring back the rest of the World Cup players. “[The squad is]  pretty much the same as last week, I think. 

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“It’s a difficult one, because all these guys go away, we’ve not seen them for four months, and there’s been changes. It takes a bit of time to integrate them back.

“We got lucky last week. Blair slotted in really well with very little training, Henry [a late call-up by Scotland]  had been with us, then he was away, and Maggie picked it up at late notice. But it is a hard thing sometimes, transitioning them back, and it will be a hard thing to manage over the next two weeks, just when they go in, how much training we give them, that sort of stuff.”

The more expansive style adopted by Edinburgh this season may have taken some opponents and spectators by surprise, and has certainly played a significant part in their home wins over Zebre and Scarlets. But Hodge explained that, far from being a recent move, the decision to change the game plan was a logical step after two seasons of a more conservative approach.

“It was always the plan – the foundations were put in place, and I think everyone knew we had to go to the next level to change a few things,” he said. “We’ve done that – we’re still in the early stages of doing that.

“The foundations of what’s been good about Edinburgh over the last two years are still there – that’s not gone away,  and the last thing we want is to erode that at all. As with every good team you’ve got to keep evolving – keep up with the times and try and get ahead of defences in my eyes.

“That’s where the World Cup was actually very good for us, in that we had a longer pre-season to try a few things out and bed some things in. It’s been good and we’re starting to see a bit of fruit to that. There will be bumps along the way, and I guarantee there will be times when it doesn’t work, but at the minute I think everyone’s fairly content and settled with what we’re doing and we’ll just keep going.”

With just one win to date, Benetton, who reached the play-offs last year, have not had such a positive start to their season. One international they could call on as they bid to rediscover their form is former Edinburgh forward Nasi Manu, who missed all of last season as he received treatment for testicular cancer but made a remarkable return for Tonga at the World Cup.

“It is amazing,” Hodge said of Manu. “We will probably see him this weekend – not sure if he’ll be playing or not. He is a good man. To go through what he has been through and to come out the other end, go to a World Cup and be playing rugby again is phenomenal. It will be good to catch up with him this weekend.”

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About Stuart Bathgate 1235 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.