ROBBIE FRUEAN, Edinburgh’s marquee summer signing from Bath, is set to make his debut for the club against the Dragons at Myreside on Friday night. The 29-year-old centre-cum-winger has been sidelined with a knee injury but head coach Richard Cockerill confirmed today [Monday] that the New Zealander had emerged from morning training unscathed and was looking good for the weekend.
“I’d expect him to be in the 23,” stated Cockerill, referring to the match-day squad for Friday’s game.
Meanwhile, Cockerill confirmed that he would like to see Dougie Fife, Jamie Farndale and James Johnstone – who are currently seconded to Edinburgh from the Scotland 7s set-up – join the club on a more permanent basis.
Fife, who is a full Scotland internationalist, made 86 appearances and scored 17 tries in five seasons at the club before being discarded by previous head coach Alan Solomons in the summer of 2016.
During the last month, he was involved in both of the team’s pre-season outings as part of an extended squad, and was then named in the starting line-up for their opening competitive fixture against Cardiff Blues last Friday night.
It was not clear at that stage whether this was simply plugging the gap created by injuries to Fruean, Damian Hoyland and Durhan van der Merwe [another new signing]; or whether Cockerill saw him as a longer-term option for the club.
Cockerill addressed that question yesterday.
“We have three 7s guys in the programme at the moment and they add a bit of depth to the squad. I would like [to keep] them in the squad but that is up for discussion. John Dalziel is running the 7s programme and it would be pretty tough on him,” he said.
“We’ve got to work through that. It’s not just about me pulling rank. I believe that the 7s programme is to produce players for the pro-team and national sides, but we have to make that work within the whole programme. I will be pushing hard to try and keep those lads if I can.”
“All three have been with us full-time for the whole of pre-season. The 7s squad are already training but their competitions don’t start until December. If those guys start commanding places in or around the 23 then you’d like to give them the best shot at playing fifteens.”
“They are Scottish-qualified guys and all very desperate to play for Scotland and Edinburgh.”
Fife injured his ankle against the Blues and will not be involved in the Dragons game. The medical team will have a better idea of how serious the injury is after the results of a scan are available, but Cockerill is hopeful that the player will be out for a matter of weeks rather than months.
Cockerill added that he was encouraged by his team’s performance in their league campaign opener, but cautioned that one small step forward will count for nothing if they fail to follow it up with another positive display this week.
“You could see the doubts of last season probably coming in when it was 10-all but we dug ourselves back into the game and got control back,” he said.
“Defensively and mentally there was fantastic physicality. But that should be the bare minimum – commitment should not be commended, it should be expected, really.
“Attack-wise, we created enough opportunities to score five or six tries,” he added, before insisting that he was not remotely concerned that the team failed to capitalise on the all the scoring chances which came their way.
“If the ball bounced differently for Jason Harries he would have scored; Nathan Fowles was unlucky when the ball was kicked from his hands as he went to touch down – I’m not sure that’s legal but the TMO didn’t want to look at it; and when Jamie Ritchie made his break, if he had carried another two metres and given the ball to Jason then I think he would have scored,” he reflected.
“So we left two or three out there but it’s not a problem. We have a positive mindset. Our game plan was to control the game as much as possible. We need to learn how to win first. If we had payed a more attractive game and lost by 10 it’s pointless. We can build from winning. We’re here to win and not entertain.
“So, it was a good start but we need to back it up. This side have a history of having a great win and then a great loss. Our next task has to be fronting up this weekend.”
“We should take confidence from going away from home to a place where we have not played well in the past four or five years and getting a result, but I think we can play a lot better and we have to get out on the training field and work hard again.”
“It is about keeping that work ethic and mind-set right in training as that gives us a better chance of getting it right on game night; and it is about not getting too carried away after one win in Cardiff, who, with respect, finished a couple of places above us last season. It is not like they are a top four team. It is a step forward, undoubtedly, but just that.”