After last weekend’s opening home loss to La Rochelle, EDINBURGH’s European Cup campaign could be hanging by a thread. And the shape of the PRO14 side is fairly desolate as well, with just two wins from seven games in early November.
Nevertheless, the morale of the squad is undiminished and they fly to Sale Sharks on Saturday night with the firm conviction that, according to attacking player Rory Sutherland, they will start the season with an away victory.
“I think the mood in the team is really good and you have to take the positives from last week’s game,” he said. Right now they [La Rochelle] are the best team in France and we did a lot of good stuff to beat them in the game.
It was just a couple of little discipline lapses that let us down. We looked at the negative things and evaluated the game, but now it’s about looking at the good things and looking forward to next week. The mood at camp is really healthy.
For most of the match against La Rochelle, which currently tops the French Top 14 table, Edinburgh trailed but managed to pull to seven points to grab a bonus point.
Early in the second half, the crucial moment in the game came when Henry Pyrgos misjudged a high ball, Mark Bennett struggled to clear and Jaco van der Walt and Duhan van der Merwe hurried aside, enabling the full-back Jeremy Sinzelle of the visitors to slot in for the decisive attempt.
Sutherland expects an even better result now that the dozen internationals who have been in action in the fall tests for the past two and a half months have had another week to re-integrate into the squad.
They were a really aggressive team, and this week it’s going to be the same,” he said. “We need to get confidence from this game, I guess.
We have to set the results aside and look at a crucial game this weekend. We’re going to win there and put our best game on the field.
Everybody looks forward to it, we’ve had a very good training week, and we’ve got a good feeling for the game.
“It’s nice to play against other clubs and other styles of rugby so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Even if Edinburgh wins all three of their remaining games, they will still rely on having the other results correct to qualify for the last eight of the Champions Cup, picking up bonus points in each.
If they fail to do so, they face the risk of playing in the round of 16 of the second-tier Challenge Cup if they finish between fifth and eighth in their division.
Whether it would really be terrible for Edinburgh to be absolutely eliminated from Europe after the pool stage is debatable. In the second half of the season, it would mean that the fixture list would be less busy and the team could concentrate on ending the PR014 season on a good note.
Sutherland, however, claims the squad has ample depth to compete on two fronts.
Every club goes through that, every club loses players when international games come up and sometimes the results don’t go your way — that’s just the sport,”Every club goes through that when international games come up, every club loses players and sometimes results don’t go your way – that’s just the sport,”
“You have to look at the year as a whole. It was not a normal season, not at all. Every club had to face this challenge, and I feel we handled it very well.”