Edinburgh v Pau: capital club gear up for end of season home run

Assistant coach Steve Lawrie looks ahead to Friday night's European Challenge Cup pool match

Steve Lawrie says Edinburgh are in a good place heading into the business end of the season. Image: ©Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Steve Lawrie says Edinburgh are in a good place heading into the business end of the season. Image: ©Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

EDINBURGH have not played at the DAM Health Stadium since hammering Connacht 56-8 in the United Rugby Championship on 4th March. They have played only four games there since mid-October, and only seven competitive games there since the custom-built, 7,800 capacity venue on the back pitches at Murrayfield opened at the start of this season. Given their record of six wins and a draw from those games, it is little wonder that Mike Blair’s side are looking forward to getting back out in front of their home support when  Pau come calling in the final round of pool matches in this season’s European Challenge Cup on Friday night.

Better still, if the capital outfit get a positive result against their French opponents, it will trigger a run of home matches in both the URC and Europe which could run to consecutive seven weeks – perhaps even nine games in 10 weeks – if results go their way.

It is not stretching it to say that this ‘Home Run’ to the end of the season could be seminal to a club which has so far failed to really capture the imagination of a city with a rich rugby pedigree.

Oli Kebble extends Glasgow Warriors contract

Scotland Men’s U18 squad for Six Nations Festival in France named

Scotland Women Under-18s squad to compete in Festival at DAM Health Stadium named

A combination of uninspiring performances on the pitch and being based in the cavernous international bowl at Murrayfield where it was almost impossible for four-figure crowds to generate any sort of atmosphere has limited the club’s profile for more than a decade – but those who run Edinburgh have grounds to be hopeful that they are standing on the precipice of a new era.

Murrayfield is clearly committed to investing further in Scotland’s two pro team squads and performances so far this season suggest that Edinburgh are developing a successful and entertaining brand of rugby under Blair. Meanwhile, the atmosphere at the DAM Health Stadium for those half dozen games played so far has been excellent.

While assistant coach Stevie Lawrie was reluctant to put the cart before the horse, insisting that Pau on Friday is the only thing that matters this week, he did acknowledge that it is an exciting time for the club.

“We’re proud of our record at home but we recognise that our focus is purely on Pau,” he said. “The competition is structured as such that we’ll get the advantage of a home last 16 game [in the Challenge Cup], and if we win that we’ll get the home-quarter. So, to put ourselves in the best position to win the comp we need to win on Friday.

“In terms of fans and the Edinburgh public, you want to create a bit of momentum, because sometimes the league can be quite bitty and we’ve not had a home game for a wee while now. So, the onus is on the team to make sure that we do win, and we continue to win, so that we can start building that buzz at home.

“It is a rectangle of grass or synthetic grass depending on which way you look at it, but home advantage makes a difference, and that’s undoubtedly down to the fans and the atmosphere they create. So, yes, I think it is important that we start well on Friday with a ‘W’ and then progress from there with a few more, to make sure we are packing in the fans for what will hopefully be play-off rugby come the end of the season.

“We do want to be bringing play-off rugby to the DAM, that’s really important,” Lawrie continued. “We’ve done it in fits and starts in the past. Previous to last year we had a home quarter-final against Munster – I was at that game as a spectator and it was fantastic. Then you think about Toulouse in that Heineken Cup run [in 2012] when we eventually went to the semi-final. It will be great for the game in this city if that can become a more regular thing.

“I also think it is important for the confidence and belief of the group. You’ve got to get used to being in knock-out games if you want to go on and win the comp. That’s what Glasgow did. They were consistently in semis, then in finals and then won the final. You have to be competing at that level consistently to have a realistic expectation of getting over the line.”

As for Pau on Friday, Lawrie said there is confidence in the Edinburgh camp coming off a generally positive mini tour of South Africa but stressed that there is no danger of underestimating the opposition.

“Pau are going really well in the Top 14 and they’ve had good away wins of late against the likes of Bordeaux and Biarritz,” he said. “They have loads of threats.  We know Jordan Joseph well because he was involved in the massacre at Racing last year and got man of the match. They have a good centre in [Tamua] Manu and they play an excellent brand of rugby.

“They can still qualify, they are on five points just now and why wouldn’t they want to go to the knock-out of Europe? So  it is important that we’ve got that mind-set that we are there to play the very best version of Pau. I believe they will send a very strong squad because they are safe from the drop in the Top14, or just about, and also they want to keep their recent run of games going.”

“We know how tough it is going to be but we’re looking forward to getting your teeth into them.”

He added that a number of players who missed the trip to South Africa through injury are set to come back into contention either this week or next.

Luke Crosbie is progressing well, Nick Haining and Damien Hoyland as well, these guys are all touch and go over the next couple of weeks, so we’ll hopefully be able to welcome them back. Mesu Kunavula is not a long-term injury so we’re hoping he’s going to be right over the next few weeks as well. It is great for the run-in because we’re going to need bodies.”

Oli Kebble extends Glasgow Warriors contract

About David Barnes 4004 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.