Press Pass: Blair on Benetton, injuries and returning internationalists
Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair ahead of Edinburgh Rugby’s return to BKT United Rugby Championship action against Benetton Rugby in Treviso this Saturday (26 November, kick-off 1pm GMT/ 2pm local).
Press Pass is brought to you by Glen Moray, the club’s Official Single Malt Whisky Partner. Never rushed or forced, always in balance, steady and with care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Find out more about Glen Moray today.
On the signing of Tom Cruse
“Tom bring’s experience and cover. I’ve explained this to all the hookers, but Paddy Harrison in particular: this is no slight or reflection on him. Dave Cherry isn’t a long-term injury, but we don’t know over the next few weeks which week he’s going to come back on.
“We’ve got Europe coming up as well. You need to register your players for that as well. So we wanted to make sure we had cover.
“Adam McBurney is going to be a little bit longer. He’s definitely going to miss the first round of [European] games. So if we didn’t have someone in, we’d be really stretched.
“Stuart McInally hadn’t played in six weeks or so before the Barbarians game, so again we were just a little bit edgy around that. We’re feeling OK with what we’ve got, especially with how Paddy did against Cardiff. But Paddy is still one of our academy players.”
Who is next ‘cab off the rank’ if further injuries are picked up at hooker
“We’ve got Harri Morris. But I’ve explained to Harri that the main part of his rugby education is playing, especially with the move from back row to hooker.
So he’s been with London Scottish the last three weeks. There’s no London Scottish game this week, so he’s back up training with us.
“We believe the best thing at this stage of his development, around the pitch, he’s outstanding. And just the more time he gets in the middle of the scrum and throwing competitive lineouts the better he’s going to be for it.
“There are lots of different layers to why we brought Tom in. But from Tom’s side of things, he’s a really consistent, experienced player, and all the reports we’ve heard say what a great guy he is as well.
And that’s important to us: the kind of man you are, how you fit in, how you’re going to add to the environment – and he’s slipped in really nicely already.”
On Cherry and McBurney injuries
“Dave was his hamstring, which he did in the lead-up to the Fiji game. And the initial thought was a couple of weeks – it’s just taking a little bit longer. You want to be better safe than sorry with hamstring ones.
“Adam is going to be probably a couple of months. He’s had surgery on his bicep.”
On Boffelli and rest periods
“The great thing about Boff is he loves being here and playing for Edinburgh. And that’s great for our club, because he’s a world-class player.
“But as well as him wanting to come back, we also have to manage him. Players aren’t always right. They don’t always know. Just because it’s their opinion it doesn’t mean they’re right.
“We are very open to the opinions of the players and what they want to do, but they don’t always know what the right answer is. Neither do we, but we have to look at the science.
“I think Boff has played the highest amount of minutes of any international player this season. He had a week off after the Rugby Championship and then he played our game against the Lions and then played until Zebre.
“We want to get the best out of him. He will get rested at some stage over the next couple of weeks.”
On internationalists returning to the squad
“Over the next couple of games they have to have some time off, which I agree with. Even a guy like WP, who only played 40 minutes over the four games, he was still away from his family, in camp and training really intensely.
“We want to look after WP. We believe we handed him over to Scotland in great shape and we want that to continue through the season. Some guys will be managed but we will work that out as we go.”
On managing reintegration of internationalists
“It’s definitely been something we’ve been really conscious of. In the first block of games up to Cardiff we used 41 players and we didn’t have many injuries.
That shows what we’re trying to give guys opportunities. We also give guys opportunities to perform, not just play, and that’s why a number of our guys are in Super6, London Scottish and have other guys in the Championship.
“We want them to have minutes under their belts so that when they come in they have played some Super6, some other rugby, then they might be on the bench and then get a start. The guys who started against Cardiff, the vast majority had had three or four games already this season.
“That is part of the learning from last season when we had Ospreys, Leinster and Munster and we weren’t really prepared for them, weren’t ready to go.
“We found that by the end of that block guys like Connor Boyle and Ben Muncaster were up to speed and going well, but the bit when we really wanted them firing on all cylinders was two or three games before.
“It’s not easy to do, but we have spent time on trying to manage players to prepare them to perform.”