French side Racing Metro visit Murrayfield tomorrow night as Edinburgh look to avenge last week’s defeat in the Heineken Cup.
Edinburgh have made eight changes to the side that lost in France.
Scottish centre Ben Cairns returns after long-term injury. As Edinburgh’s all-time top try scorer in the competition, he is a welcome addition to a team struggling for points.
Cairns is joined in the back line by New Zealand centre Ben Atiga, whilst Piers Francis and Chris Leck form a new half-back combination. Lee Jones and Dougie Fife have been brought in to replace injured wingers Tom Brown and Tim Visser.
Robert McAlpine replaces Sean Cox in the pack, joining forces with his former Scotland age-grade colleague, Grant Gilchrist, in the second-row.
Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley could not explain how his side lost 19-9 at Racing Metro last week, slumping to their third defeat in the competition.
Following last season’s surprise surge into semi-finals, Edinburgh have failed to win qualification from the group stages.
Tomorrow’s game offers the team an opportunity for an improved performance ahead of their Pro12 double header against Glasgow Warriors.
We spoke to Scotland Centre Matt Scott and Edinburgh Second Row Robert McAlpine ahead of the clash.
What was the feeling amongst the squad after last Saturday’s defeat to Racing Metro?
Matt Scott – It was a feeling of great disappointment and frustration as we felt we played good enough rugby to win the game. Rugby games at this level are won by small margins, and unfortunately we didn’t get the majority of these small margins right.
Rob McAlpine – Everyone was pretty gutted after the defeat in Paris, the game was for the taking. We provided enough scoring opportunities to win the game, but didn’t manage to convert those opportunities into points. It was disappointing.
Is the pressure now off for tomorrow’s game with qualification looking unlikely, or are players still feeling the stress of the situation?
MS – I don’t think the pressure is ever really off when playing professional rugby. There has been quite a few changes for this game, and the new players that have come in will be looking to stamp down a marker for selection in the upcoming games.
RM – No, there is no pressure off at all. We are desperate to put in a performance against Racing Metro at home, and we owe it to our fans and supporters to get a result. Having the home advantage is a great help and we should hopefully get a result.
What has training been like this week, have you been working on anything in particular?
MS – Training has been tough as everyone is keen to get a win on the board in the Heineken cup. We have targeted a few areas that Racing are weak in, so the boys will be looking to exploit those.
RM – Training has been really good this week, especially with players stepping in and playing that have been out injured. Netani Talei (Fiji), Ben Atiga (All Blacks), Ben Cairns (Scotland), and Dimitri Basilaia (Georgia) all step in after time out injured.
What have the coaches been saying ahead of tomorrow’s game?
MS – They have been willing us to get a win in front of our own fans, particularly to gain some momentum going into the two Glasgow games, which are going to be really important in our season.
RM – .. Can’t answer too much about strategy..
Personally what do you think can be done tomorrow to get a result?
MS – I think if we get our set piece delivery better and hold on to the ball we will cause them all sorts of problems. They are a huge side and don’t like being moved around. Murrayfield is a particularly large pitch, so I’m sure you will see us using that on Friday.
RM – Racing Metro have a big forward pack and being able to move the point of contact and play a quick game we should expose weaknesses and create opportunities to score.
Finally, if you get a result tomorrow what kind of confidence would that give the team going forward?
MS – It would be great for momentum to get a win, especially against a team of racing’s calibre.
RM - The win would give us massive confidence going into the 1872 cup (Glasgow Edinburgh back to back matches) and will hopefully allow us to pick up where we left off in the Rabo Pro 12. Two wins from two against Glasgow would put us right back up in the mix in the table.