Scottish Daily Mail

Uninspirin­g Solomons could not take capital men to the next level


THE coaching merry-go-round within Scottish rugby continues apace. Hot on the heels of the news Gregor Townsend will take over from Vern Cotter as Scotland head coach next summer — and be replaced by Dave Rennie at Scotstoun — we now have the removal of Alan Solomons at Edinburgh.

However, if the first two announceme­nts took me by surprise, then this one did not.

Solomons’ departure has been coming for a while as I don’t believe the South African was the man to take Edinburgh to their next stage of developmen­t, and now he is gone.

Whilst I commend the decisionma­kers at Murrayfiel­d for acting to remove him, why did they give him a one-year extension to his contract in December last year?

It seemed a strange decision then and it’s even more peculiar now. I was worried they would stick by him for the whole season to avoid having to compensate him if he was sacked, but I am glad that rugby sense has taken the lead from financial prudence.

Solomons is a great rugby man and I enjoyed listening to his take on the game. You could tell the many years of experience he had, his understand­ing of the game and his love for it was obvious.

He has his views on how the game should be played, which weren’t very inspiring — but they were exactly what Edinburgh needed at the time of his appointmen­t.

I don’t think anyone knew just how bad a state former head coach Michael Bradley had left Edinburgh in.

How they managed to persuade Solomons to take the job, considerin­g the state of the squad and the morale of the club as a whole, was an achievemen­t in itself.

To be fair, though, it was the type of environmen­t and circumstan­ces that suited him; turning an ailing club around and making them healthy again.

Solomons did it twice before, to differing extents, with both Ulster and Northampto­n.

However, again, he wasn’t the coach to take them on to the next level when he had completed his recovery job. This is exactly how I see things at Edinburgh.

He was essential to make Edinburgh healthy again and be able to compete in the Pro12 and in Europe, but I didn’t see the inspiratio­n that was going to take them up the league from their position of ninth last season.

If you rule out both Italian sides, they were, de facto, second bottom only above Newport Gwent Dragons and that, quite frankly, is just not good enough. It is not good enough when you consider the quality of the squad, the resources they have been given and, with Scotland only having two pro teams, we need both competing in the top six and pushing for the play-offs.

Solomons was unlucky that his time at Edinburgh coincided with the most successful period in the history of their closest rivals, which culminated in Glasgow Warriors winning the Pro12 in 2015.

This gave everyone a benchmark to judge and compare the sides — which was not good for Solomons or Edinburgh. And when you do compare the two squads at each end of the M8, the top players are quite evenly matched.

Scotstoun stars Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Jonny Gray and Josh Strauss can be rivalled by fellow internatio­nals Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, John Hardie and Sam HidalgoCly­ne at Edinburgh, although they are mostly forwards from the capital club.

It is with the squad players, however, that the difference has been made.

Townsend has made the most out of his squad and developed a culture and game plan that allows players to seamlessly slip into the team and perform.

In stark contrast, when Edinburgh have been without their big stars, there has been a huge drop off and the younger players have really struggled.

They have lacked understand­ing and leadership — but the real problem was a lack of quality coaching and Solomons has lost his job as a result.

Now the baton has been handed on to Duncan Hodge, with Steve Scott supporting him, and it is a great opportunit­y for him to make his mark.

Having held the position of attack coach with Scotland, he can now get his ideas out there, dictate how Edinburgh prepare on and off the pitch and he can set the culture that he wants.

Hodge will need support and guidance as this is his first-head coach role, although he assisted Scott when they stepped in on an interim basis after Bradley’s departure back in 2013. This should come from within Murrayfiel­d.

It might allow the current director of rugby, Scott Johnson, a chance to justify his role within Scottish Rugby and guide this young Scottish coach.

He could offer valuable advice and support for Hodge — and stop people questionin­g exactly what he does. A win-win, surely?

I didn’t see the inspiratio­n that was going to take Edinburgh up the league

 ??  ?? Game over: it was no shock to see Solomons depart
Game over: it was no shock to see Solomons depart
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