Edinburgh have always been a bit like a Toblerone – peaks and troughs abound. Unfortunately, like the updated version of the triangular Swiss confectionery this year’s model of the black and red is heavily biased towards the dips rather than the rises. A 3 game home stand that should have built the foundations for the rest of the season saw them win the 2 tough legs (against Ulster and Harlequins) but conspire to lose to perennial basement-dwellers Zebre. Since then there has only been 1 win in 5 games after outlasting an Stade Francais side for whom fitness to play 80 minutes was seemingly an optional extra. So where do the men from Murrayfield (soon to be Myreside) go from here?
A Pro 12 playoff spot was probably never a realistic ambition but a hugely disappointing first half of the season mean even a chance of making the top 6 has gone. In the 12 team era the range of points to place 6th is 54-63 with an average of 57.5 – Edinburgh would need 43 points from their remaining 11 games just to hit the average (and given the way the league is currently divided halfway the side in 6th will almost certainly be at or above the top of the range). Even getting 43 points would be stunning, outdoing what Munster have collected in their remarkable first half of the season, or what Glasgow managed to total in their flying second half to the last campaign.
That being said what does success look now for Edinburgh? Is there an opportunity for Duncan Hodge and can he show that he can build for next season?
In terms of raw results home wins are essential. Edinburgh will play 5 times at Myreside and they need an non-negotiable minimum of 4 victories. The foundation for any side is strong form on their own turf – Edinburgh have to try to make their new home a fortress from the off (which won’t be easy with Munster as the first visitors!)
The Italian Jobs:
The capital side’s 2 Italian jobs also have to return wins – something that has been an issue in the past. In fact, as OTOTM recently tweeted, nobody in the Pro 12 has a worse record against Zebre than Edinburgh…
Win in Wales:
Beyond that a victory for Edinburgh on their travels to the Principality has to be a big target. The Gunners have only managed 2 wins in their last 16 games west of the Severn River. The post Six Nations fixture at Parc y Scarlets will be the last opportunity this season to add to that tally.
If those goals can be achieved then it should be possible to head to the Kingspan, the RDS and Scotstoun with the mindset of giving it a blast with the pressure off. Edinburgh can focus on simply trying to make life as awkward as possible for 3 sides that will be targeting theses games as a chance for 5 points to boost their chances of making the playoffs or getting a home semi-final.
Putting all this together gives a target fixture list that looks like this:
Pre-Six Nations fixtures:
Sat 31 Jan – Zebre (A)
Fixtures during Six Nations:
Fri 3 Feb – Munster (H) / Scotland v Ireland (Sat)
Fri 10 Feb – Ulster (A) / France v Scotland (Sun)
Fri 17 Feb – Leinster (A) / 6N rest week
Fri 24 Feb – Cardiff Blues (H) / Scotland v Wales (Sat)
Fri 3 Mar – Ospreys (H) / 6N rest week
Post Six Nations fixtures:
24/25/26 Mar – Scarlets (A)
7/8/9 Apr – Connacht (H)
14/15/16 Apr – Treviso (A)
28/29/30 Apr – Dragons (H)
Sat 6 May – Glasgow (A)
Fixtures in red represent targeted wins. A return of 7 wins plus a respectable number of bonus points (5 or 6) would give a total of 33/34. That’s the sort of tally that repeated over both halves of a campaign would be comfortably top 6 and starting to push for the playoff spots. If (and it’s still a pretty big if) Duncan Hodge and his coaching team can achieve this sort of level in the latter half of the current season (possibly alongside progression in the Challenge Cup) then there may be enough there to work with to justify extending their tenure into 2017/18. Anything short of this though and the SRU may need to press the button on the search for an another candidate to push Edinburgh forward.