Rob Moffat is so keen for his Edinburgh players to beat Ulster this weekend that he intends to keep them guessing as far as team selection is concerned.
Moffat’s men have been endured a disappointing start to the new Magners League campaign, falling to a 34-23 defeat at Cardiff Blues on the opening weekend before suffering a 16-13 reverse at home to Munster last time out.
And while neither of those results can be classed as hammerings, Moffat has been pretty vocal about his frustrations with his side’s performance levels in Rounds 1 and 2.
The Edinburgh boss has therefore named an extended squad of 25 players for Friday’s clash with Ulster at Ravenill and he won’t be telling his team whose starting until the very last minute.
“We’ll watch them all very closely in training, like we always do, but we’ll do that first before we name the starting XV. We’re just doing it a bit differently this week,” said Moffatt, who saw his side finish sixth in last season’s Magners League standings.
"We've decided to give the players another couple of days to show why they merit selection and we're expecting training to be pretty intense as a result.
“There are close calls to be made. It’s a difficult balancing act between starting with the same XV or giving someone else a chance who’s knocking on the door.
“That sort of competition for places is exactly what we want, because it helps to drive up standards. We said all throughout pre-season that we've got an open mind as regards selection, and that remains very much the case.”
Although a Tim Visser try threatened to give Edinburgh an undeserved win against Munster at Murrayfield, Moffat had no problem admitting that his men were second best on the night.
He’s understandably hoping for a much-improved display in Belfast as Edinburgh look to return to winning ways by putting a halt to Ulster’s 100 per-cent start to the season.
“I don’t use the word disappointed lightly and I was disappointed with the way we played. It was a poor performance,” added Moffat.
“We had the perfect conditions and a good crowd and we all let ourselves down.
“Munster played their usual brand of effective rugby…and we couldn’t do that. We couldn’t control the ball and, if you can’t do that, you can’t get any rhythm or momentum in your game.
“I’m somebody who isn’t just trying to take positives – I’m trying to be honest and that was a poor performance by us.
“I want to see a much-improved performance. In both our games so far we’ve not had good first halves and we’ve not started well. We’ll have to do that at Ulster this week.
“They’re a strong, physical side and they’ve started well, winning their first two games. Playing away from home, we’ve got to be in the game at half time. We’ve got to try and dominate the game rather than be playing catch up.”
Despite the two defeats, however, Moffat remains confident Edinburgh can turn their season around.
Moffat insists he has seen enough in both games to show that Edinburgh can compete this year. Unfortunately, he’s only seen that in glimpses and that won’t be enough to achieve the season aim of reaching the Magners League Play-Offs.
For Edinburgh, Friday’s trip to Northern Ireland is about producing the goods for longer periods; combining attack and defence effectively, and performing as individuals and as a squad for as close to the full 80 minutes as possible.
“So far in the Magners League, we've only shown a fraction of what we know we can produce. We need to perform as individuals, as units and as a team. We’ve done some good things in each of the two games, we’ve just not done them all together.
“We defended really well against Munster. They must have had 75 per-cent possession and we kept them out, but we didn’t do other things well – we didn’t keep ball and we didn’t have structure in our attack. Whereas against Cardiff, we ran them ragged for the last 20 minutes. We played some really good rugby and just finish off a couple of things.
“We need to put both those parts of the game together. When we can do that, we’ll perform better and we’ll win games.”