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Edinburgh eager to face up to their nightmares

If any Edinburgh players have woken up screaming over the past four months, then the chances are that their nightmares will have been provoked by ­recollections of that gruesome evening in early May this year when they suffered a 55-12 hammering at the hands of Munster at Meggetland.

Alan Solomons with new club captain Mike Coman. Picture: SNS/SRU
Alan Solomons with new club captain Mike Coman. Picture: SNS/SRU

It was the nadir of an ugly season for the capital club, their only consolation coming from the knowledge that the campaign was almost over by that point. But the summer since has not been a time for licking wounds, rather for the ferocious pre-season conditioning regime that head coach Alan Solomons, who was not in place in time to do the same last year, has imposed upon the players.

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The benefits of that programme have been evident in Edinburgh's pre-season games against Leicester, which they lost narrowly, and Newcastle, which they won with something to spare. But just as a bad rehearsal is often followed by an impressive first night, the possibility that the opposite can be true must have been the cause of some anxiety around Murrayfield in recent days. All the more so as it is Munster they now face this evening as they get their Guinness PRO12 season underway.

Yet while some Edinburgh players might want to wipe last May's game from their memory banks, Solomons is happy, if that's the word, to confront the reality of what happened that day as his side conceded their heaviest defeat of the season and one of their heaviest ever. "They gave us a stuffing," said the South African candidly. "We accept that. We may have been tired in that game, but they did it. That's a fact.

"The players now know that if you are 15 to 20% off your game against a quality side like Munster then you are in trouble. That is the same in any quality competition; if you are that much off you will take a beating. The players appreciate the fact that Munster are one of the leading sides in Europe and will be no easy proposition at Thomond Park. We need to get our performance right."

Solomons was addressing the issue after naming a squad of 23 players for the trip to Thomond Park that included 12 who were on duty at Meggetland. Yet while all the talk four months ago was of disarray in the Edinburgh ranks, that focus has swung more towards Munster in the wake of the embarrassing incident that saw incoming coach Anthony Foley's opinions about his players, many of them disparaging, mistakenly attached to an email and sent to every member of the Irish side's squad.

Solomons, a lawyer by profession, was predictably guarded when that incident was brought up, preferring to focus his attention on the likely impact the arrival of Foley, a Munster stalwart, will have on the side.

"I think there will be slight tweaks in the way they play," Solomons observed. "To some extent, I think they will go back a bit to the old Munster way. I think they will be a strong mauling side and I think they will play a bit for territory.

"That doesn't mean to say they will not attack, but under Rob Penney they tended to play a lot of wide-wide rugby. Anthony Foley has already been quoted as saying that he felt that did not work entirely and that they will be looking to generate momentum. They will put an emphasis on the physical edge in the light of him coaching the team."

Solomons agreed that warming up against two sides from England's Aviva Premiership was satisfying preparation for facing the Munster muscle. In terms of selection, his biggest calls have been the choice of Limerick-raised scrum-half Sean Kennedy ahead of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, while Greig Tonks edges out Tom Heathcote for the fly-half berth.

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