Edinburgh Rugby: Boss Duncan Hodge handed baptism of fire, says Marcus Di Rollo

By Jamie LyallBBC Scotland
Duncan Hodge
Since taking interim charge in September, Edinburgh boss Duncan Hodge has won just three of 16 Pro12 fixtures

Former Edinburgh centre Marcus Di Rollo believes the club's interim boss Duncan Hodge has been forced to negotiate a baptism of fire by Scottish Rugby.

Hodge, who had been an assistant to Alan Solomons since 2015, took charge following the South African's early-season exit.

Under his stewardship, Edinburgh have slumped to a club record eight successive Pro12 defeats.

"It's not been handled well," Di Rollo said of the change in hierarchy.

"The SRU have not only got rid of Solomons, but they've made it such a difficult thing for Duncan to take over.

Marcus Di Rollo
Di Rollo played more than 100 games for Edinburgh in five years at the club

"He has kind of been thrown in the deep end with someone else's squad, halfway through a season. He knows the players quite well, but it's tough to carry on when you can't put your own finishing touches to a squad or sign who you want.

"I think he will be pretty hacked off with the way it's gone, but also with that he maybe wasn't given the opportunity to do it from a fresh start to the end of the season, then into next season.

"It's a tough gig he's been given, and I'm not sure anyone would've been able to turn it round as fast as people would want."

'Too many journeymen blocking young Scots'

Di Rollo, 39, played alongside Hodge - who will revert to his previous role when incoming head coach Richard Cockerill arrives this summer - and his assistant Stevie Scott for Edinburgh and Scotland, making more than 100 appearances for the club and earning 21 Test caps.

He fears his former team-mates have been hamstrung by the legacy of their predecessor, who recruited a host of familiar, if unheralded, players from the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby competition in an attempt to stabilise the listing club.

Marcus Di Rollo and Duncan Hodge
Di Rollo played in the same Edinburgh backline as Hodge

Edinburgh have enjoyed moderate success in Europe, reaching the 2015 Challenge Cup final, where they were beaten by Gloucester, but have never finished in the top half of the Pro12 since the league's inception, and their awful form since the turn of the year has left them languishing in ninth place.

"When I look back to when we were successful, we had a lot of good young players, but we also had quality players coming in like Todd Blackadder, Brendan Laney, Dave Hewett," Di Rollo told BBC Scotland.

"That's a better model than what they had under Solomons, which looked to me as if they had a load of journeymen coming in. And I don't think they were necessarily a whole host better than the guys we could give an opportunity to.

"There's a pretty narrow foundation that a young player can make it here. And if you're getting in journeymen and not promoting your own, that's just fundamentally not good for Scottish rugby, and it's proved not to be successful for Edinburgh.

Edinburgh in the Pro12 - last five years

"I'd like to see them get one, two, three big names in and promote the young lads. There are guys who may have been given the opportunity but haven't, because there's been someone coming in from overseas who is just no use to Scottish rugby, but just there to plug a gap.

"I think you've got to get the marquee signings right. That really brings the standard of everyone else up - off the field, how they conduct themselves, the young guys look up to them and see the way they act, that's the best thing for the club.

"The young players get a buzz from that - it brings them up, not suppresses them. Because if you bring in a foreign guy and they don't cut the mustard, the young Scottish guys are going to be thinking, 'I'm as good as him, surely.' And they're going to get hacked off."

'I wouldn't be losing sleep over many of the players leaving'

There are diamonds lurking in Edinburgh's faltering squad. Back-rows Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury, winger Damien Hoyland and full-back Blair Kinghorn are the sort of burgeoning talents around which Cockerill can look to mould his team.

But there are many underperforming senior professionals, some with Test caps, and on recent form, Di Rollo admits he would not be dismayed to see a host of pre-season departures.

"There have been some outstanding performers, Hamish Watson being one of them," he said. "Magnus Bradbury - imagine if he was coming up into the Glasgow team, it would be a lot easier for him to look good.

Hamish Watson scores for Edinburgh against Connacht
Hamish Watson has been in stellar form for Edinburgh and Scotland this season

"I certainly wouldn't be losing sleep over losing many more. It's not to say they're all bad players. When Cockerill comes in, he'll no doubt come with a plan.

"The first thing he'll do is speak to everyone, assess their thoughts, assess where they are and try and work a plan around the players he has. There's no doubt a lot of good players in that squad but they're underperforming.

"It might just be the change or freshness that you need. He's not got a traditional Edinburgh mentality. I think he does a lot of contact in training, so I'm sure boys will be challenged in different ways. You'll probably find that players who have been underperforming, with a new coach who doesn't know them, will have to perform, or I'm sure he'll get rid of them."

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