Main RSS Feed Forum RSS Feed


Next Fixture

No Upcoming Fixtures Available

Latest Poll

Caullie Lug 16/17

View Results

Log In

Forgot Password

View Article


21 May

Edinburgh Rugby may now have entered what passes for the close season in pro rugby nowadays - all that remains is for Toulouse to dispose of Wasps in this weekend's Heineken Cup final. But we at the Supporters Club never rest in our mission to bring you, the supporters, the latest news from your beloved club.

To that end, The Ed caught up with Gunners Head Coach, Frank Hadden, this week and asked him for his perspective on Edinburgh's 2003-04 season - from the performances of the under-strength side that did so well in the early stages of the season, through the top guns who took the side to the Heineken quarters, to the even more under-strength team that battled gamely during the Six Nations:


What are your thoughts on the club's Heineken campaign this year?

FH - Delighted to reach the Quarter Finals after so many years of trying, but disappointed with our draw - anything would have been better than Toulouse away.

Toulouse had a lot of positive things to say about Edinburgh and the way we play the game - even after they lost in December! What's it like playing them, and pitting your wits against Guy Noves?

FH - They are the ultimate combination of power and skill and have spent the largest budget in Europe wisely. At Meadowbank we worked out that only Todd was heavier than his opposite number. But the best thing about them is they are always looking to throw the extra pass. This makes them both sensational and vulnerable at the same time.

The Gunners will again be Scotland's top seeded team next season. What do you think would represent a good campaign in 04/05?

FH - Although at this point in time our contract negotiations are far from complete, it looks as if we will have a competitive side once again. We were very proud to have reached the Quarters with, on a par with the Borders, the smallest playing budget in the competition. Despite being the only side in the competition who will list half a dozen amateurs in its squad of 34 next season, if we can steer clear of too many injuries, we expect to mount a serious challenge once again.


You had to deal with losing a lot of top players during the World Cup and then the 6 Nations. How did you cope with that?

FH - During the World Cup we were without 7 players and still won 6 of our 10 games so we were delighted with that. During the 6 Nations, 13 players were with Scotland, but if you include U21's, U19's, Sevens, Clubs not releasing players and other injuries, we were missing around 24 altogether during this time. This was too many and we did well to win one game during this period. Even Toulouse would have struggled to cope with this number unavailable and during the course of the season it feels like we have had 4 separate teams representing Edinburgh. Needless to say the work required to get players to training and put out a side during this period was unlike anything I expected to have to do in the Professional era.

What do you think about the format changes that will be made to the League and Cup next season? And are there any other changes that you would like to see in future years?

FH - We are delighted at not having to play during the 6 Nations and would prefer a shorter season for such a small squad, but would be prepared to accept any format if it meant securing a major sponsor for the League. This competition is absolutely pivotal to the development of professional rugby in this country.

How do you think the level of rugby in the Celtic League compares with that in the Zurich?

FH - I think there is hardly anything between the leagues. In terms of games won against each other in the Heineken Cup over the years, there is a slight advantage to the Celtic League teams.

What will be your target for performance in next year's League and Cup?

FH - Once all the dust has settled and we know what our squad is, we will sit down with the players and look at targets for next season.

There have been reports that Scotland players will be limited to 30 games a season from now on. What impact will that have on Edinburgh Rugby?

FH - As only 4 players played more than 30 games this season, this ruling should not have too great an impact. It is meant to protect the international players and none of them came close to this number this season.


It's perhaps a bit invidious to single out individuals, but who do you think has developed most in the squad this season, and why?

FH - It would probably be quicker to list those who have not made massive strides this year.

And of the club players who stepped in during the internationals, were there any that particularly stood out for you?

FH - We were very pleased with the commitment of the 20 plus club players who wore the jersey this season. With the possibility of an even smaller squad next season, these guys will continue to play an important role. Hopefully the resurrection of the Back Up squad will make the transition a bit easier for them. From a very long list, special mention needs to go to Nathan Pike and Alistair Strokosch for playing more games for Edinburgh(18) than most of the International players. The latter was probably the only non professional to play in the European Cup.

The most interesting challenge was faced by Jamie Blackwood who joined us on the Thursday then played 70 minutes at Scrum Half against Cardiff on the Friday. They had also lost players to the 6 Nations but their replacements included Peter Muller and Matt Cockbain who had both played in World Cup Finals.

Are there any positions in the squad that you'd like to strengthen for next year (finances permitting)?

FH - We are always looking to strengthen the squad and feel that one of our biggest successes has been our ability to recruit on a shoestring. At the moment we are trying hard to re-sign the bulk of our squad and it doesn't look as though there will be much left in the pot for new signings.

What aspects of the team's play have improved most this season?

FH - Belief. There is a genuine belief that we have a playing style that suits our squad and if we play well we can beat anybody.

Conversely, which areas will you be working on to improve?

FH - Strength and Power. We are aware that we are a bit lightweight despite the huge strides we have made in this area under the guidance of Ken MacEwen.

What sort of links are there between Edinburgh Rugby and the District's Academy?

FH - As we have only had an Academy manager, Phil Smith, for 6 months, it's early days. Next season some of them will step up and join the Part Time group and train with us as often as possible. There are a number of lads who are good young players and we will be doing everything possible to ensure they fulfil their potential.


What impact do the supporters have - home and away - on the team?

FH - Recently I was asked for my highlight of the season and said that when we left the field after our warm up at Headingley before the Heineken Cup game against Leeds, it seemed that the whole stand rose to cheer us off. We have over the years seen significant travelling support in Edinburgh for the opposition but we have never had one ourselves. It was heartening to know that so many people cared and would have been proud of our efforts that day.


There's been widespread rejoicing that Todd will be with us for another year. Hopefully a deal can be agreed to keep Brendan with the club for another couple. What influence do they have on the team/squad?

FH - One of our biggest successes over the years has been the quality of our recruitment, but there is no doubt they have been 2 of the best. The timing of their arrival could not have been better. We had a lot of young talent on our books but we couldn't afford to wait for them to develop in their own time. Everyone thought the English side that won the World Cup would be too old, but there is no substitute for experience. Experienced players have a huge impact on the development of young players and at the time, we desperately needed players who could take responsibility both during games and in training. They have been invaluable as both players, performing consistently well every time they take the pitch, and as leaders, where the quality of their on field communication has set the standard for everyone else.


What has pleased you most about this season?

FH - Winning 6 out of 10 games during the World Cup meant that the International players returned to a squad full of confidence and with real competition for places. This was the launch pad for our European Cup campaign.

The way we play gives me a lot of pleasure. I think we have proved that not only is it possible for a Scottish side to play with width, it actually enhances your chances of success. I think we have also proved that when close to full strength, we can play well, not just occasionally as we have in the past, but consistently.

On the whole, the most satisfying thing is that through the turmoil that has marked the professional era in this country, we have continued at Edinburgh to make steady progress.