Mike Blair reveals interest in Worcester’s Scotland trio

Edinburgh coach could move into market if English club goes into administration

Richard Cockerill believes that Duhan van der Merwe is one of four Edinburgh players in the frame to make the Lions squad. Image: ©Craig Watson
Duhan van der Merwe was with Edinburgh for four seasons before joining Worcester in the summer of 2021. Image: © Craig Watson.

DUHAN van der Merwe, Rory Sutherland and Murray McCallum could all appear on Mike Blair’s radar if their current club, Worcester Warriors, go into administration. The Edinburgh coach revealed today (Sunday) that he still has some of his budget left for the coming season, and is keeping a close eye on the Worcester situation, especially as it could affect those three Scotland internationals.

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs issued a winding-up petition against Worcester last week, and if administration follows the penalty would be a 35-point penalty – which  would almost certainly result in relegation at the end of the coming season. The club could also be forced to raise funds by selling or releasing leading players such as winger Van der Merwe and props Sutherland and McCallum, all of whom used to play for Edinburgh.

Blair has added sparingly to his squad over the close season, making five signings so far: Scotland forward Sam Skinner, props Nick Auterac and Jamie Jack, winger Wes Goosen and back-up stand-off Bruce Houston, who has joined on a partnership deal with Heriot’s. He appears not to see any gaping holes in that squad at present, but if a Scottish international were to become available, he could be tempted to make a bid with an eye towards future seasons.

Asked if he was interested in the three exiles, Blair said: “Yes. The difficult bit is it might not be right for now, but it might be right for tomorrow. So do you take the hit now, for it to be right for next [season]? So what I mean by that is that with not having much budget now, can we really stress that and get someone in who we’d really want for the following year? It’s complicated.

“We do have a little bit of budget left for emergencies, injuries and what have you, but we’ve not earmarked anyone. Obviously the Worcester situation is one that is ongoing and once we get clarity on what exactly is happening there we can have further discussions on it. 

“But at the moment we’re sitting back and waiting for that to play out. Hopefully, they get bought out, they resolve things and they’re able to continue how they’re going. If the situation changes and players become available then we’ll have to see how that fits with what we want.”

Worcester’s former chief executive Jim O’Toole announced yesterday that he has a plan to take over the club and “ensure their long-term sustainability”. However, that plan depends on the club’s going into administration first. Worcester are due to play Glasgow Warriors in Inverness on Friday in a pre-season friendly, and as things stand that match is set to go ahead as planned.

Meanwhile, Blair has confirmed that Argentinian star Emiliano Boffelli is unlikely to be available until mid-October. Boffelli, nicknamed King Boff by his Edinburgh team-mates, starred in the Pumas’ 25-18 win over the All Blacks on Saturday, scoring 20 points as his team won an international in New Zealand for the first time ever. Argentina have three more games to play in the Rugby Championship before Boffelli can come back to Scotland.

“I sent him a crown as a WhatsApp emoji,” Blair said when asked if he had been in touch with the back-three player since the All Blacks match. “He’s been great. We’ve been in touch – no real detail or anything, just ‘How’s it going? How’s training? Are you enjoying yourself?’ – all that kind of stuff.

 “I think he’s keen to get back. My understanding is that he really enjoyed last season and he’s keen to get back. The first game he played for us was Dragons away on the Friday or Saturday, having played on the Sunday against Ireland. And he played really well. So he’s just keen to get back playing for us, but we’ve got to manage that with getting the best out of him for the whole season.

“Boff is ongoing – we don’t have to manage him. We’ve got a certain amount of Scottish guys who we have to manage – play a certain amount of rugby, get rest at  certain periods. Boff we don’t have to do that, but we also appreciate that you want to get the best out of people throughout the season. You don’t just want to burn them out completely by November.

“His last game is in South Africa, so we’re just catching up in the next couple of days, He needs some visa stuff to do and he needs a little break as well. We’ll hopefully see him in October.”

Edinburgh are at home to London Scottish on Friday night in the first of two pre-season friendlies. Their second is away to Benetton on Friday 9 September, and their URC campaign begins with a home match against the Dragons on Saturday 17.

About Stuart Bathgate 1151 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.

7 Comments

  1. One or two thoughts from the article [apart from, of course we would like our players back] the first being what strength of team will Edinburgh put out against Scottish whose performance over the last few seasons have not been Stellar and are bottom of the Greene King Championship, One win, One draw and Eighteen lost, Ealing put 101-7 and 0-81 on them: and considering Argentina’s recent performances what lessons were or could retrospectively be taken on board on the recent Scotland tour, were opportunities missed?

    • being interested in Duhan is just telling Edin fans that Boffelli won’t be staying beyond this season, hardly surprising given he will be able to name his price in France.

      • I worry that these visa things can sometimes be tricky to nail down. Hope they can sort it out.

        And agree with GH, the Lon Scottish game may be a training spin with lots of changes and not much structure but still full increased prices to watch. Shows a certain type of confidence by the club.

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