Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Solomons hails resilient Edinburgh

Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons claims his team will deserve European Challenge Cup glory for battling their way through adversity this season.

Solomons would not elaborate on the obstacles they have overcome but he emphasised their resilience throughout his pre-match media conference ahead of the clash with Gloucester at Twickenham Stoop on Friday night.

The South African has gradually improved Edinburgh after taking over in August 2013 but experienced criticism along the way as they struggled to get into the top half of the Guinness Pro12 while Glasgow have been occupying the top few places.

And the former Ulster and Northampton head coach, who was once assistant coach of the Springboks, felt resilience was the key attribute that got Edinburgh to their first European final.

Solomons, who is yet to agree a new contract with the Scottish Rugby Union beyond the end of the season, said: "Of all the teams I have ever coached, and I have been privileged to coach some really fine teams, in terms of togetherness this is definitely the tightest squad I have ever coached.

"It's a tribute to the players and the environment that has been set and I think it's due to the particular circumstances and challenges we have had to face this season in the broadest possible context.

"This season, this team has faced challenges that I have not seen in any team I have been with.

"Resilience is very important and what we have had to contend with this season... they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and we are very resilient."

When asked to specify the challenges, Solomons said: "I think we just leave it there. I am saying the team has faced many challenges and they have dealt with them.

"What this team has done in these circumstances already ranks right up there in my career.

"They deserve to go all the way but I know they are up against a very good team. It's a very important game for Gloucester in terms of their season, it gives them entry to the Champions Cup, they are not going to make the top six.

"They have a lot of good players with international experience so it's a big challenge for the boys. I know they will rise to the challenge and my wish is they perform in such a way that they come home in this game because they deserve it."

One player who has experienced harder times in recent years is Tim Visser, who was top try scorer in the Pro12 for three consecutive seasons but has found points harder to come by under Solomons.

The Scotland winger, who leaves for Harlequins in the summer, said: "I think we have overcome a lot of hard times. In the last couple of years we have struggled as a team and been the worst team out of two in Scotland.

"We have battled hard and had a lot of critics, especially in the last season and a half, and this will be a reward for a lot of the hard work."

The Dutchman added: "I was riding a wave of easy tries and the type of rugby we played meant I got a lot of tries and that's great, but I remember saying at the time that I would rather win a few games than get a lot of tries.

"We are now winning a lot of games and I am getting less tries so I can't actually complain.

"But some sort of balance would be great. I think that's where we are heading, maybe slightly too late for me because I am leaving at the end of the season, but we are now becoming a good attacking team instead of defending all the time."

Solomons has made two changes to his starting line-up - Greig Tonks replaces Tom Brown at full-back following a hamstring injury while number eight Cornell du Preez makes his first start since October after returning from a dislocated ankle in the past two weeks, with Stuart McInally dropping to the bench.


From Belfast Telegraph