Press Pass with Mike Blair
Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke with press in the build-up to Saturday's United Rugby Championship opener aginst Scarlets at Edinburgh Rugby Stadium.
Press Pass is brought to you by Glen Moray, the club's Official Single Malt Whisky Partner. Never rushed or forced, always in balance, steady and with care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Find out more about Glen Moray today.
On the fitness of key players
“Jaco [van der Walt], Jamie [Hodgson] and Bill [Mata] will all be available for selection this week. Jaco has come back well from his head knock. Bill had issues with his foot. He trained pretty fully today so it’s all looking good and we’ll make a final decision later in the week.”
On internationals returning and the sharpness of players
“We’ve got a few long-term injuries still as well as Hamish missing. There’s Ben Toolis and Glen Young who’s out long-term. So we’re missing a few.
“But we were glad to get our internationals back last week to give them a bit of a hit-out. You could feel that lift in quality. They definitely needed it! I tried speaking to Blair at half-time and he was like, ‘gaffer, leave me alone, I’ll be with you in a couple of minutes’.
“But in that extra 10 minutes he got after half-time he got his second wind. That was important we got those guys out. That will stand us in good stead for later in the week.
“We’ve got guys like Henry Immelman with a bit of wind behind him on this track will get moving, Darcy’s been looking really light on his feet and Damien has been excellent too. We’ve got players who can make the most of this surface.”
On the format of the United Rugby Championship
“Simple answer is I’ve not got my head around it. I’ve looked into it but for the first couple of games I want a lot of focus to be on just them.
"I’m finding there’s lots of things for me to look at like budgets, players, Super 6, selection, training and all these different things – and I’m doing pretty much the attack side of things myself at the moment. But I’ll certainly find time to look into the intricacies of the set-up soon.”
On the importance of the 1872 Cup derbies
“There is a big emphasis on them. But these are always big games the 1872 Cup fixtures. They are really high-emotional high-end games. They’re like internationals that bring the pressure and competition. They are always big games and they will be even more important now.”
On home advantage at the ERS
“We’ve trained here nearly every day, we’ve got two warm-up games under our belt and five of our first seven games are at home.
"So we’ll get used to playing here fairly quickly. The guys have really enjoyed it and the atmosphere. We had 4500 on Saturday and it was as good as a full house so you can imagine what the full 7000 will sound like.”