Miller Time - Ally makes his mark
There was a sense of de-ja-vu for openside flanker Ally Miller when facing the Scarlets in Llanelli at the weekend - writes James Parsons.
Miller has been picked regularly for the Scarlets fixture in recent years, with the back-rower becoming something of a lucky charm for his hometown club.
“Seems to be every year I come in to play against Scarlets, and we seem to be winning those games.
“It’s turning into my annual media duty for the club after the Scarlets games this time of year!”
The competition for places in the back-row is high for the capital side, with Edinburgh being able to pick from multiple international stars. This means everyone needs to take their opportunities when they’re given. For Miller, it’s about performing when he’s given his chance.
“Once you get the opportunity you have to take it every time you get it. The standard of the back row is so high, so when you get your shots you’ve got to take them.
“I came through the system with Jamie Ritchie, and it’s great to see where he’s taken his game.
“It’s great being able to bounce off those guys, and they’re pretty honest with making sure you’re doing the right things and learning off each other the whole time.”
The challenge for a starting spot is one that Scotland Sevens star Miller revels in, and believes his background in the shorter format of the game gives him something different to bring to the side.
“I definitely get the benefits of the sevens game when I get to come into the Edinburgh environment.
“My job in the sevens team is to connect with the backs and get some direction in the attack, and I try to do the same in 15s. I work a lot with the back-three and centres on strike phases.
“There’s also a lot that I’ve been able to bring over from sevens in defence, I’ve got used to having to chase quick wingers trying to run around me in sevens. Fortunately I’m not so much of a sitting duck in 15s!
“Ultimately it’s great having players coming from different paths, folk from different clubs and backgrounds, all coming together on the one team for the same goal.”
Miller’s distribution work was evident against Connacht in Edinburgh’s last match at BT Murrayfield, with the back rower linking up well with the backs from the line-out. Sunday’s victory against Scarlets, played in torrential conditions, meant that the match couldn’t be one of free-flowing attack, instead it was a game about adapting to the conditions.
“We prepped for the conditions all week and knew what the weather would be, so from there it was about transferring pressure onto the opposition, and building up a lead.
“The set piece really helped us. The front row put in a massive shift, with Murray on from the start, and to have someone like WP Nel to bring on off the bench.
“We know it will be the same against Cardiff this week, the set piece will be massive.
“We know they’ll go hard at the ball on the ground, so we need to work hard on the contact skills so that we can keep the game flowing, and make the most of our backs and getting quick ball. Hopefully there’ll be a few more tries this weekend!”
Edinburgh will be hoping to back up their victory on the road with a win against the Cardiff Blues this weekend. The match will be played behind closed doors, and Miller can’t wait to see home support returning soon.
“Hopefully we can get back to having a crowd at some point. It’d be great to have fans there enjoying the game as much as we enjoy playing it, but we’ve got to take safety into account.
“Once the first whistle goes there isn’t too much difference with the game, but you really miss the energy you get off the crowds.”