For tonight’s Champions Cup game against Sale Sharks, EDINBURGH have rested three main players, but assistant coach Steve Lawrie maintains that this does not mean defeat in the fight for a place in the last eight of European club rugby.
As with Vice-Captain Henry Pyrgos, current Scotland internationals Darcy Graham and Jamie Ritchie were spared, enabling young people Jack Blain and Charlie Shiel to obtain their first exposure at this stage, while Magnus Bradbury is back in the starting eleven.
The narrow home loss of La Rochelle last week means that they will have to rely on results elsewhere going in their favor even if the capital side picks up bonus point victories in their three remaining group games, but Lawrie vowed that the team will fight tooth and nail to make it as long as there is a possibility of making the quarter-finals.
He stressed, “We’ll back any team to win the game,” In the here and now, we want to win the game. We’re going there to put in a good show and get the points.
Even if you’re not playing in the top flight, at the end of the pool stage, you might end up as one of the best runners-up in the [Challenge Cup] middle competition, and it’s very important for us to play games on the biggest stage possible. But we’re still taking care of the boys with the Scottish national team who had a difficult couple of weeks, so Jamie and Darcy have rest protocols, which means a down week this week.
“They’re coming back to the club from the Nations Cup and then we’ve got the Six Nations coming up as well, so we’ve got to make sure we use the squad smartly,” he said.
Henry is similar because since coming back from injury, he has played a lot of rugby and we have a lot of quality in our team, so it’s a chance for other people to play.
We don’t always play with what is known as our best team from the outside, but guys need a chance and we have faith in the guys who come to us, so it’s very exciting to start this weekend with guys like Charlie Shiel and Jack Blain.
It will be a baptism of fire, for Shiel in particular. The 23-year-old has played at this stage before, but in Edinburgh’s quarter-final loss to Munster two years ago, he was on the bench for just four minutes. This will be his first outing, and at the moment in Faf de Klerk, he faces arguably the best scrum-half in world rugby.
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” enthuses Lawrie. He’s now at a point where he’s played a fair deal of rugby in the PRO14 for us – whether it’s from the bench or in the few appearances he’s had – so this is his next move.
Faf is an excellent player, but we know that Charlie has many of the same qualities,” he added. “In terms of Charlie’s ability to speed up a game with his running ability, along with his resilience, that is probably one of Faf’s greatest strengths as well. There’s no hiding at nine.
You are one of the group leaders and Charlie is improving that side of his game really well. I don’t think you ever turn around and say,’ He instantly went from a young prospect to a fully developed member.’ So it’s a phase, and it’s our role as coaches to blow him in accordingly.
But you’re old enough if you’re healthy enough, right? And if he does well here, he’s in the best spot for the next match to start.
The 20-year-old Blain is making his sixth season debut, but will be making his first Champions Cup appearance.
Lawrie said, “Jack came in and played really well. “When it comes to structures and knowing that side of the game, he still needs to improve, but he is a very good athlete, really good under the high ball and he’s a hazard, which is very exciting.
“He’s a good professional and he works hard. It’s just a matter of him continuing to develop and this is another good opportunity for him to do that.”
Sale have lost their opening game of this Champions Cup campaign – 26-14 away from Toulon – and in recent weeks have undergone a bit of upheaval, with long-time rugby director Steve Diamond resigning with immediate effect unexpectedly earlier this month.
“Paul Deacon has taken over and he’s been a coach at the club before, so it’s not like they’ve made a massive change to their coaching group,”Paul Deacon took over, and he’s been a club coach before, so it’s not like they’ve made a massive change to their coaching group. “I would expect more of the same to be done by them.
They want to play the physical game where it’s all about winning, with the South Africans in their squad. They are going to make verses