EDINBURGH'S players are out of condition and will not be competitive until they get fit, according to their coach Alan Solomons, who blames their subdued performance against Cardiff Blues last weekend squarely on too many players being physically unable to cope with three big games in 12 days.
As he prepared the squad to head for Italy, where they play Zebre on Saturday, Solomons admitted that the number of players signed during the season who had come straight from a southern hemisphere campaign did not help. He was scathing, though, about the condition of the players already here when he joined two weeks before the start of the season compared to the standards he was used to.
"They are not in the same league," said Solomons. "You have to play back-to-back games and that is what is tough for these players. In South Africa [where he coached Southern Kings] we did not have any real stars but the conditioning programme we put them through at the start of the season made all the difference.
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"We had 10 games in a row, including going to play in New Zealand and Australia. If you equate Super Rugby to Heineken Cup you are playing 10 back-to-back games. To cope with that you need to be conditioned well and that made the difference.
"That Kings team had players able to play virtually every game and that is very important."
One of the first things Solomons did after taking charge was to bring in Crofton Alexander, the former sprinter and conditioning expert who spent six years with Wasps and also coached England age-group sides, but he did not arrive until after the season had started, so there has been no chance for the players to spend time away working on their strength and fitness since the appointment.
"I could only judge what I saw," said Solomons. "Our conditioning for next season is a massive thing. Our pre-season will be very structured. It has been a very tough season for the team. I am not happy with the conditioning of this team. Their conditioning took place in the course of the pre-season.
"There are also a number of players in this team who are playing back-to-back seasons; that is just the way it is when you come from one hemisphere to the other. It is hard to back up games week-in, week-out, and we were a little bit off colour against Cardiff. I think that [the poor conditioning] had something to do with it.
"The side is not conditioned. They [the players] will be conditioned next year. By the time pre-season is finished they will all be properly conditioned. The big problem was that we did not have the advantage of a pre-season.
"I am going to make sure this team is conditioned the way I want it for next season so they can front up physically every single week."