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Heineken Cup: Rees needs to make move

It seemed, as they say, a good move at the time.

Edinburgh had moved into the elite of European rugby, Greig Laidlaw had moved to fly-half and Mike Blair had moved to Brive. All things considered, Richie Rees was doing the right thing when he said his farewells at Cardiff and headed for the Scottish capital.

Six month later, the reality of life in Edinburgh must look a good deal grimmer to the Swansea-born 29-year-old. Fond memories of last season's Heineken Cup run were obliterated when Michael Bradley's team began this season's tournament with a shambolic performance and a 45-0 hammering by Saracens.

In the RaboDirect PRO12, they have won just four games while losing nine. And Rees's hold on the club's No 9 shirt looks a little shaky given Scotland coach Scott Johnson's belief that Laidlaw is really a scrum-half after all.

In which light, today's meeting with Munster at Murrayfield has a particular importance for Rees. Edinburgh coach Bradley has picked him at scrum-half – Laidlaw is at fly-half – and he needs a big game if he is to make the position his own again. His credibility, like Edinburgh's, is on the line.

Did Bradley promise him the shirt to persuade him to move to Edinburgh? He had slipped down the scrum-half pecking order at Cardiff and surely wouldn't want to go through that again. Rees was coy when the subject came up.

"I did not really discuss it too much to be honest," he said. "I saw the players Michael was trying to sign and had retained for the next couple of seasons and that was the main reason. I looked at the success they had last year when they were in Cardiff's Heineken group. That was a big attraction."

And a rapidly fading memory after four straight defeats in this season's competition. Edinburgh, conquerors of Toulouse last April, have scored a measly 12 points in the 2012-13 Heineken Cup. Small wonder that Rees should think of this time of the season as the bottom of a slope that they have to start climbing soon.

"As a squad, we have put the marker down," he said firmly. "The season starts again now. We are looking to put our hands up and perform for the rest of the season, both in the Heineken and in the PRO12.

"The quality is here. It is just a matter of having game time together. I'm sure that over the next three or four months things will pick up and we're looking forward to what's left of the season."

In truth, Edinburgh can probably take most hope from their opponents' wayward form. Defeat today would send the two-times Heineken champions spiralling out of the competition, and their 17-6 home defeat to Cardiff last weekend was hardly the most convincing warm-up. Munster sit sixth in the PRO12 table, and more and more fans fear their glory days are now over.

Rees is not in that category, but he clearly sees a chance for Edinburgh today.

"We had a tight game against them here at Murrayfield at the start of the season. They were missing a few players, but so were we," he said.

"Through injuries and retirements there are probably not the force they were in previous years, but there is a lot of quality in the players who are still there. They are still a good side so nobody is taking them lightly."

Alasdair Reid

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