Press Pass: Blair on Watson, Crosbie and Sharks challenge
Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair ahead of Saturday’s return to BKT United Rugby Championship action against Cell C Sharks at DAM Health Stadium (28 January, kick-off 5.15pm).
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 Duhan van der Merwe and Hamish Watson
“They’ve got training today and tomorrow with Scotland so we’ll see how they get through that. We’re going to delay naming our team until we find out how they are.
“Duhan had obviously had his ankle issues. He’s been away in South Africa getting married, so he had training to do when he was over there, but his session today with Scotland will have been his first rugby work for a couple of weeks
“So, we’ll see how he gets through that.
On both players’ fitness
“Duhan ran on the Friday – so 10 days ago – and he had a couple of running sessions while he was away. He had his GPS away with him so we can monitor what speeds he got up to and how much load he got through, and we’ll see how he gets on with Scotland today and tomorrow.
“Hamish is the same. We’ll see how he goes Tuesday and Wednesday, and we’ll see any guys coming back to Edinburgh on Friday because Thursday is a day off for us.
“It is a bit of a balance for us deciding whether to bring them in at all, or whether to have them on the bench, or whether to have them start. There are a number of different things we have to look at.
On other Scotland squad members returning to the team
“I’d imagine we get some back and not others. I’d imagine the ones with higher minutes and more likely to be involved in the England game won’t be involved with us this weekend, but some guys who need rugby like Duhan and Hamish will come back.
On WP Nel and Luke Crosbie ‘played themselves out’ of Edinburgh team
“It is amazing the different emotions you feel in this role. You are so happy for individuals because you know it is what they want to be doing, what they aspire to, it is also great because it means they are playing well for us if they are in the frame for Scotland, but there is a little tinge of: ‘oh, we’re not getting him this week’.
“But, ultimately, as coaches when you take the job you are aware of the different bumps we have to cross.
“So, it is great that those guys are away training with Scotland, but it also means our guys left here are going to have to step up and lead.
“From our senior players group we are missing Gilco, Jamie, Dave Cherry and Blair Kinghorn, so the next group have got to step up and lead, and that it going to be good for us in the long-run.”
On facing a SA team at a ‘bad time’
“This is the thing with the league, luck plays a part in what you are trying to do because you don’t know which players are going to be available to your team, and which are going to be available to the other team, and I believe that South African players have a got a rest period coming up but I don’t know when that starts.
“Sharks have come over with a fully loaded squad for the Harlequins game in the Champions Cup and I can’t imagine them making too many changes.
“It’s similar to what we were saying about the selection of national players. It’s disappointing that we don’t get them but it’s exciting for other guys who can step in and who haven’t played as much this season, or who have been on the bench and are coming to us every week and saying, ‘why am I not starting?’. Let’s see how they go.”
On Luke Crosbie’s form
“He’s had two Scottish Building Society Player of the Month awards in row. Hamish didn’t play a huge amount for us last year.
“He kicked in more during that post-Six Nations time because he had a long lay-off with his groin and then there was the Lions stuff, so Luke got a good crack there and did really well.
“Likewise recently, Hamish hasn’t been available but Luke has been playing some brilliant stuff and we want him on the pitch for us, he’s a warrior of a player. He doesn’t say a huge amount but his actions are fantastic.”
On Crosbie’s best position – openside or blindside?
“I think he’s equally [good]. We do things a little bit differently with how we run our back row. We drop them into where they suit with our lineout in particular.
“So Luke’s done the eight role with our lineout before, whereas six, seven and eight off the scrum is obviously a little bit different.
“We’d happily select Luke at six or seven. He doesn’t have a huge amount of experience as an eight off the scrum but I can’t see why he can’t do that as well.”
On Crosbie’s performance against Saracens proving he’s ready to step up
“Hopefully that will come under consideration in the selection because you saw who he was up against and Saracens are a similar type of pack to England, big and aggressive, and I thought Luke really stood up. But it wasn’t just Luke.
“When you get asked a question post-match like ‘how do you think Luke did?’. And I said I thought Luke did really well and then you see the press and it kind of implies that I brought it up, but I thought we had a number of guys who stood up.
“I thought Dave Cherry was outstanding, I thought Grant Gilchrist was really abrasive, I thought Sam Skinner was really smart. Schoeman we all know about, WP playing 80 minutes, Bill carrying the ball, Jamie in amongst it – there were a lot of strong performances.
“Luke maybe didn’t stand out as much as other guys because he’s a grafter and you might see more of the other guys, but he’s really important for us at the moment.”