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Future to be sustainable, but tricky run-in comes first

THE policy in Scottish rugby that has created the greatest recent division has been the number of foreign imports at Edinburgh, particularly the seemingly never-ending stream of South Africans.

There are currently six at the club and speculation in the South African press is that Izak van der Westhuizen is to be replaced by Anton Bresler, currently with the Sharks and another who is not qualified for Scotland.

Earlier this week, Mark Dodson, the Scottish Rugby Union chief executive, defended the policy and now Alan Solomons, its chief architect as the Edinburgh head coach, has joined the union chorus explaining what is going on. "My vision is to build a sustainable club through its academy but you can't have a young Scottish player with talent coming into a side that does not have a good measure of experience and is successful," he said.

"If they come into a side that is struggling and does not have experience, then it is going to stunt their development. We have targeted good talent but those guys need to come into a team with a reasonable amount of experience and that is going to come from the Scottish internationalists and these guys who have come in.

"They are coming from countries where rugby is massively important and they expect to win."

Solomons has taken a team that finished in the bottom three both of the last two seasons to seventh, one spot off a place in the Champions Cup, announced yesterday as the replacement for the Heineken Cup.

With five games to go, they have already won as many as last season and more than two years ago, mainly because there has been a small, but significant, improvement in defence, with tries conceded dropping from an average of 2.3 to 2.1.

However, they also have a brutal finish to the campaign, so their already slim hopes of catching the Scarlets, the team ahead of them, would shrink to zero if they do not win tonight against Cardiff Blues in a match that has been shifted to Meggetland.

The move is mainly because the Murrayfield pitch is being relaid but also as the latest experiment with the smaller stadium before the expected announcement that they will play most home games there next season.

Solomons has stuck with the same XV who claimed the club's first away victory of the season at Newport Gwent Dragons, and he is looking forward to returning to the Boroughmuir club ground where they beat the Ospreys. "The players really enjoyed the atmosphere," he said. "The ground was packed and the supporters were really close to the pitch, it was something they relish."

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