SCRUM Web Columnist ‘The Embra Express’ looks ahead to Edinburgh Rugby’s European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final this Friday:
In all the excitement of Scotland’s productive 6 Nations campaign, I’ve been disappointed that the real stars of the show have not had the adulation they deserve.
I refer, of course, to Tommy Boyd-Seymour’s eyebrows.
I’m beginning to think that they must be tattooed on, as they always seem to be fixed in the same confident, alert, positive formation. Their owner plays heads up rugby because his head is literally always up, constantly looking for the gap.
The return to form of George North and the emergence of Elliot Daly have increased the level of competition for back three places on the forthcoming Lions tour. But surely Tommy’s seat on the plane to New Zealand is pretty secure.
Keep an eye on him. You’ll see I’m right.
By contrast with Scotland, positives have been in pretty short supply from an Embra point of view of late. However, last week saw the stupendously good news that WP Nel has re-signed for three years.
He is in his propping prime and, assuming that he fully recovers from injury, will anchor what should once again be a powerful scrummage during that time.
The re-signing of 6 Nations standout Hamish Watson and the arrival next season of Mark Bennett are similarly positive statements of intent.
Turning to Edinburgh’s Challenge Cup quarter-final at BT Murrayfield this coming Friday evening, I wish I could be so confident in their chances of success.
After another disappointing loss last weekend, this time away to the Scarlets, the prospect of coming up against Stade Rochelais, who are having a great campaign in this season’s Top 14, is a bit daunting, to put it mildly.
The Frenchmen are way ahead of their domestic rivals, including even Clermont, many people’s favourites for the senior European competition.
There has been an air of ennui about the Gunners’ performances for some time now, sitting as they are in limbo before the arrival of ‘Jarvis’ Cockers in the summer.
Their chances of a higher finish in the PRO12 are vanishingly small and there has been an air of going through the motions about them. In Llanelli, they again conceded a try bonus in the first half and one felt that the Scarlets eased off in the second period, having achieved all they needed to.
This one match, however, is different. On Friday night, they can reach a European semi-final.
Granted, Les Corsaires are brim full of French and international talent. But so were Toulouse on that fateful day at Meadowbank in the Laney era.
So were Perpignan a few years later when the Embramen hammered them in the pool stages before the men from the Pyrenees progressed to the Heineken final in Dublin.
More recently, the Gunners’ league form was pretty hopeless when they beat Toulouse at Murrayfield to reach the Heineken semis during Michael Bradley’s spell at the helm.
Much will depend on the respective attitudes of both sides. If Stade decide to focus on the Top 14, send a weakened side and generally behave with the indifference still typical of French away performances, Edinburgh have a chance. But only if they are up for it themselves.
On Friday evening, the Embratifosi will be descending on the national stadium in hope rather than expectation. But I would not be surprised if they pulled this one off against the odds.
Thanks to David Gibson/FOTOSPORT for the photo
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