It wasn’t just bruised egos and another knockout defeat that Edinburgh suffered in Bordeaux but the loss of key man Bill Mata for six to eight weeks as the Guinness PRO14 2020-21 season gets up and running on Saturday.
Mata will miss the first two games of the new campaign against Ospreys on Saturday and Munster the following week after picking up ankle ligament damage that requires surgery this week. He’s also set to miss the entire Nations Cup campaign with Fiji, when he would have been playing for Vern Cotter’s side against Scotland at BT Murrayfield.
Edinburgh are well covered at No 8 with Scotland internationals Magnus Bradbury and Nick Haining, but Mata is a special presence with his pace, power and offloading game.
“Bill was caught awkwardly in a tackle and will miss the first two rounds of the PRO14 with us and then the international period with Fiji,” said head coach Richard Cockerill. “Once he has surgery we’ll know more, it may be shorter, it may be longer but roughly it will be six to eight weeks.
“He has been playing very well. We know Bill is pivotal to ourselves so it’s disappointing, not just for us but for Fiji too. We want our guys to play for their countries because they are very proud.
“We’ve got good cover with Haining and Bradbury so we’re not short in the back row but certainly for Edinburgh and Fiji that will be a blow.”
With just a week’s break since the Bordeaux game, Edinburgh have had little option just to plough on into the new season.
“Glasgow twice, Ulster and Bordeaux, that’s the toughest pre-season we’ve ever had,” said Cockerill, referring to the four matches to wind up the old, lockdown-delayed season.
“As disappointing as Ulster and to a point Bordeaux were, we’ve had good reviews and some harsh words around where we need to be.
“Actually we’re doing some very good things. We’ve developed our style out of sight in the last 12 months. I know it’s everybody’s job to look at the faults, but if you look in detail, this team has come on leaps and bounds in the last 12 months and we shouldn’t lose sight of that either.
“We had a reasonably good season and we qualified for the (Heineken Cup). The first year, qualifying for Europe was a success because we’d never qualified by right before. Now we’ve qualified for Europe and no-one has even spoken about it, because it seems a natural place for us to be.
“Sometimes we have to remember where we’ve come from.”
Ospreys had a desperate season by their standards last year but still have four Lions in their squad for this weekend, although a fifth – George North – is suspended.
“They’re a good side, with a new coaching team – I know Toby Booth well and he’s a good coach,” added Cockerill. “We’ll do our due diligence on them but we’ve got to make sure all parts of our game are right.
“It’s about us doing our bits well and consistently as possible, making sure that when we get the opportunities to score we take them, and don’t give away soft points.
“We’ve been guilty of that against Ulster and Bordeaux and we’ve got to stop that. Hopefully we’ll have learned some lessons, as harsh as they are.”