Rory Baldwin (33) is the editor of the Scottish Rugby Blog which has been providing coverage of Scottish rugby at all levels since 2007, and has given him too many top rugby moments (on and off the pitch) to mention.
Edinburgh Rugby go into the new RaboDirect PRO12 season looking for a much better performance than last time out, having neglected the competition to concentrate on Europe.
After ending up in 11th place, sandwiched between the two Italian sides, almost anything would be an improvement for Michael Bradley’s men – they should be at the very least challenging for a Play-Off place like west coast counterparts Glasgow Warriors.
Being able to play on two fronts is the key, as they seek to repeat the stirring Heineken Cup campaign of last season but close out more games in the RaboDirect PRO12. The favourites for the competition are still probably Leinster, but Ulster have strengthened their squad and may well fancy a tilt at the title. This is the level Edinburgh aspire to.
Edinburgh have recruited heavily for the new season, not all of it without controversy. The most exciting addition could be the introduction of bullocking Cheetahs tighthead WP Nel, to add much-needed depth to an Edinburgh front-row unit that has been too easy to pick of late. Of course, the SRU’s announcement that the South African Nel is here as a “project signing”, intended to qualify for Scotland in 3 years, has raised the eyebrows and hackles of many.
Regardless of this, he and Edinburgh’s other signings such as Richie Rees, John Yapp or (former World Junior Player of the Year) Ben Atiga should offer a solid backbone especially during international periods where Edinburgh have often been seriously weakened.
It would be nice to see newly-minted Scotsman Tim Visser continue his rich vein of form as he looks for a fourth consecutive season as the competition’s top try scorer. That could see him progress to much bigger stages than his two caps so far for Scotland, with tests against the All Blacks and South Africa and a Six Nations and a Lions Tour all possible showcases for his talents in the coming season. He’ll be in a young, talented Edinburgh back division flush with international success, with Matt Scott and Greig Laidlaw now settled in the Edinburgh and Scotland back lines.
Edinburgh face Munster at Murrayfield on the opening day of the season, and will be looking to set an early precedent against Michael Bradley’s home province who they also face in the Heineken Cup pool stages. The Irish can be slow starters especially as they tend to rest their big names after a heavy summer – and their tour to New Zealand will have weighed heavier than most.
Last season, Irish sides were very good at stifling Edinburgh’s free-spirited play but if Edinburgh’s muscle – epitomised by Netani Talei or Sean Cox, made vice captain in only his second season – can front up to Munster, Edinburgh will be expecting their backs can score the points required, and send out a warning that they are here to win this season.
Rory edits the Scottish Rugby Blog