Atkins eyes competition as key to coming season

The Greenyards provided the backdrop for the visit of English Premiership side Leicester Tigers on Saturday, with a number of performances offering food for thought for the season ahead.

The early season focus on conditioning appeared evident among the Edinburgh Rugby side, with the 28-man squad able to call on a wealth of drive and power for the entirety of the proceedings, at the indigenous home of the sevens game.

Lock Ollie Atkins was perhaps the unsung star of this early season challenge match, and he couldn't underestimate the influence of this strive towards being the fittest club in the Guinness PRO12, something coach Solomons has called for.

You can do as much fitness and conditioning training as you want, and you'll always be blowing in your first game, but the work Johan Pretoriuns [new lead conditioning coach] is doing is great”

- - Edinburgh Rugby lock Ollie Atkins

“I thought the boys played really well.”

In his second season at the club, the ever-improving Scotland A cap extended his influence on the side with a fine display of ball carrying and competent lineout work.

For many this was viewed as a romantic affair, with the game being brought to Melrose to showcase the club in one of the core sectors of its rugby region – which also takes in the east of Scotland's Lothians, Tayside & Fife.

A genuine tension draped the Greenyards as the game was decided with a penalty deep in to overtime to hand the Tigers victory.

Click here for the match report

Perhaps the greatest positive to be taken from the defeat, is the growing competition in the squad and the genuine angst written upon the faces of the Edinburgh Rugby squad.

It would have been simple to dismiss such a defeat into the mire of pre-season. This side, however, appeared unwilling to adopt such an attitude, and seems determined to force itself to learn from such heartbreak.

If absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, then the absence of a victory on Saturday could hand the capital side the necessary impetus to claim more victories as the season develops.

Secondly, if the hope is also to develop a squad through youthful exuberance, then there too lies cause for optimism.

This excitement was on show from Atkins, who was quick to highlight the ability of the squad in its entirety.

He added: “There's players like centre Chris Dean who have great amounts of potential. But there's older guys like Roddy Grant who just keep getting better and better with age."

Top performances from man of the match winning open-side Hamish Watson and debutant prop Rory Sutherland were also evidence of the aforementioned youthful influence.

The strength of the squad appears to be building and, once back to full strength – Solomons had 11 players unavailable on Saturday – it's increasingly apparent that youthful exuberance or experience through maturity will not guarantee anyone a starting spot.

“There's so much competition for the lock spot, so we are all vying for it,” added Atkins.

All that's doing is pushing us to be better players, that has to be a positive thing. So we’re already looking forward to Newcastle on Friday.”

Next match...

Edinburgh Rugby take on Newcastle Falcons this Friday (29 August) in the club's final pre-season match of the season at Mansfield Park (kick-off 7.45pm)

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