Edinburgh Rugby debrief: Don’t leave the DAM Health, young talent is quietly thriving and why you might need a PhD to work out the Challenge Cup draw

Edinburgh should think very carefully about moving games from the DAM Health Stadium

Edinburgh forwards coach Stevie Lawrie was asked this week about the potential of the club switching big European matches to Murrayfield should they progress to the latter stages of the Challenge Cup.

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Lawrie, not unreasonably, said such decisions were above his pay grade but conceded that economics would be the deciding factor.

The DAM Health Stadium has a modest capacity – 7,800 – and the club could certainly attract far more were they to progress to a quarter- or semi-final against a top side.

But such is their record at their new home that Edinburgh should think very carefully about moving back to Murrayfield, even for a one-off game.

The capital side have yet to lose a competitive match at the DAM, where the atmosphere is claustrophobic and noisy. They’ve won seven and drawn one, and their last three victories there have been by gargantuan scorelines: 66-3, 56-8 and 54-5.

The win over Pau guarantees Edinburgh a home game in the last 16, and also in the quarter-finals, should they progress. They are in with a real shout of winning this competition – why put that at risk by going back to half-full (at best) Murrayfield?

Edinburgh are unbeaten in competitive matches at the DAM Health Stadium. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group)

Strength in depth of Mike Blair’s squad is encouraging

Eyebrows were raised by Mike Blair’s team selection for the Pau match. While it was expected that some players would be rested, the decision to omit Hamish Watson, Blair Kinghorn, Ben Vellacott, James Lang, Mark Bennett, WP Nel and Emiliano Boffelli from the starting XV seemed risky.

In their place came a number of young Scottish players and they all rose to the occasion against the French side. There were notable performances from flanker Connor Boyle, who scored his first tries for the club, and Cammy Hutchison and Matt Currie, who impressed in the centre.

Another standout performer was Glen Young who, at 27, is probably a little too long in the tooth to be classed as “young” but is turning out to be an astute signing. The former Newcastle and Harlequins lock had to wait until January to make his Edinburgh debut due to injury but is now showing his worth.

Edinburgh center Matt Curie, pictured right with head coach Mike Blair, impressed in the win over Pau. (Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group)

He filled in at openside flanker against Pau and was a threat whenever he had the ball in hand. International honors can’t be too far away for the Jed man.

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The Challenge Cup – it’s complicated

Bath are Edinburgh’s likely opponents in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup but we will only know for sure when the result is in from the all-French Pool A clash between Biarritz and Toulon on Saturday night.

The proximity of the supporters to the action makes for a good atmosphere at the DAM Health Stadium. (Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group)

If Toulon get as much as a point from the game, then Bath – who have dropped out of the Champions Cup – will be visiting the DAM Health Stadium next weekend. It is if Toulon fail to get anything that things start to get complicated.

Such a scenario would see Edinburgh go above Toulon into second place in the Challenge Cup rankings.

That would mean a home tie in the last 16 against the side ranked ninth, ie the third-placed side from the Challenge Cup pool stage with the worst record. That would almost certainly be the team who finishes third in Pool A. Benetton currently occupy third but are level on four points with fourth-placed Perpignan who play in their final group match in Treviso on Saturday. Hope you are following it so far.

The big bonus from an Edinburgh point of view of not playing Bath is that Blair’s side would then be guaranteed home matches all the way through to the final were they to keep winning.

If they do play Bath then Edinburgh would only play the last 16 and – provided they beat Bath – quarter-final ties at home.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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