Edinburgh Rugby’s steps to forge a championship-chasing future were today bolstered by the contract extensions of two of the club’s most prominent players.
Back-row and outside-centre stalwarts for club and country, Ross Rennie and Nick De Luca, returned from the RBS 6 Nations to pen two-year deals at the club, keeping them in contract until 2014.
The players have been fundamental to the side’s successes this season, with De Luca’s ability to line-break and create space crucial to the club’s expansive approach and try-scoring feats of wingers Tim Visser and Lee Jones, while the work-rate, ball playing and ball winning of Rennie – a nominee for the RBS 6 Nations player of the championship – is an invaluable resource to any top tier team.
Their commitment is a timely boost for head coach Michael Bradley and his men who prepare for two crucial matches at Murrayfield against Scarlets in the RaboDirect PRO12 this Friday followed by the Heineken Cup quarter-final with Toulouse on Easter Saturday.
The Irishman has now retained the services of 19 of the club’s top performers for the next two seasons, while the club have announced that Free State Cheetahs prop WP Nel and Northampton Saints back Greig Tonks are among the new faces set to run out in black and red next season.
Bradley said: “It’s fantastic news for Edinburgh Rugby that players of the calibre of Ross [Rennie] and Nick [De Luca] have committed these crucial years of their rugby careers to the club.
“They’ve played some tremendous rugby this season, showing the commitment, style and professionalism that we look to foster in all of our players here at Murrayfield.
“Both will play a key role in the bright future being pieced together at this club and I’m delighted that they’re here to stay.”
Dumfries-born De Luca, who grew up in Lockerbie, has been a pivotal player for Edinburgh Rugby since joining the club from Border Reivers in the summer of 2007.
The classy centre is regarded as one of Scotland’s most creative customers and has developed into a key figure for the club and country, with a place in his nation’s historic 2010 series victory in Argentina among the highlights of his 33 Test-cap career, which began during the 2008 RBS 6 Nations championship against France.
This season a new partnership with young inside-centre Matt Scott has seen the pair thrive through a shared enthusiasm for expansive rugby, which has allowed De Luca to showcase his attacking abilities in the black and red.
He said: “I’m really enjoying my rugby in Edinburgh. Our progress in the Heineken Cup has made this season a real landmark for even the most experienced players.
“Despite these highlights it’s clear to all the players that we have opportunities to improve as individuals and as team, combining a committed group of players who are signing on to something special with exciting new arrivals in the seasons ahead.”
Ross Rennie, Edinburgh Rugby's home-grown 'magnificent seven', exemplifies the club’s top performers and has long been a cornerstone of the Murrayfield side; his show-stopping commitment and talent often earning comparisons with the world’s premier open-side flankers.
A knee injury meant that Rennie was absent from the international scene for two years after his 2008 debut against Ireland however he earned a recall for the 2010 EMC Autumn Tests, the 2011 RBS 6 Nations Championship and Rugby World Cup, where a series of spirited performances made the number seven shirt his own throughout the 2012 RBS 6 Nations.
Rennie, who is arguably in the form of his career, said: “Having grown up in Edinburgh it means a lot to me to represent this club so I’m delighted to have extended my contract and to have secured the chance to play for the club I grew up supporting.
“Personally I’m in a good place just now. I’m happy with the way I’m playing for both the club and Scotland. I’ve made these developments as a player at this club and I’m confident that this is the right place for me to continue to improve.
“There’s definitely a different atmosphere around the club at the moment. There’s a lot of optimism about where we’re going and I’m looking forward to being a part of that future”.
Edinburgh Rugby new signings: WP Nel (Free State Cheetahs), Greig Tonks (Northampton Saints), Ulises Gamboa (Aironi, to the end of the season)
Edinburgh Rugby re-signings: Alex Black, Tom Brown, Sean Cox, Geoff Cross, Nick De Luca, David Denton, Grant Gilchrist, Robin Hislop, Gregor Hunter, Lee Jones, Greig Laidlaw, Chris Leck, Harry Leonard, Stuart McInally, Lewis Niven, Ross Rennie, Matt Scott, Steven Turnbull, Tim Visser
NICK DE LUCA (28)
Total appearances: 90; 54+12 (RaboDirect PRO12), 22 + 3 (Heineken Cup)
Edinburgh Rugby debut: v Leinster (September 2007)
Previous clubs: Dumfries Saints, Border Reivers
Total tries: 11; 10 (RaboDirect PRO12), 1 (Heineken Cup)
International honours: Scotland (33)
ROSS RENNIE (25) – 26 tomorrow (29.03.12)
Total Appearances: 73; 42 + 11 (RaboDirect PRO12), 16 + 4 (Heineken Cup)
Edinburgh Rugby debut: v Ospreys (September 2006)
Previous clubs: Stewart’s Melville
Total tries: 4; 3 (RaboDirect PRO12), 1 (Heineken Cup)
International honours: Scotland (16)