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'You can't just look at the Irish provinces and say, 'That's what we want to be''

Grant Gilchrist and Edinburgh are keen to build a legacy like those of the Irish sides.

GRANT GILCHRIST IS set for his 150th game for Edinburgh tomorrow when they face Ulster in the Guinness Pro14 semi-finals, while he also has 42 caps for Scotland to his name.

The 30-year-old second row is an experienced professional rugby player who has been through plenty of experiences, but he has yet to win a trophy in his senior career.

Gilchrist played in a Heineken Cup semi-final for Edinburgh against Ulster back in 2012, when Irishman Michael Bradley was in charge, but tomorrow is his and Edinburgh’s first-ever semi-final in the competition now known as the Pro14.

tadhg-beirne-with-grant-gilchrist-in-the-line-out Gilchrist competes with Munster's Tadhg Beirne in the air last season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

So when Gilchrist looks across the water and notes the successes enjoyed by Irish players with similar levels of experience to him, it’s difficult not to feel a hint of jealousy.

For some time, Scottish players and supporters have wondered why they can’t match what the Irish provinces and national team have achieved in recent times. Glasgow won the Pro12 in 2015 but it proved to be a one-off.

Now, though, Gilchrist and Edinburgh feel they are on the brink of taking the next step and actually winning a trophy. It might be time to begin reeling the Irish teams back in.

“At Edinburgh we have been building towards that,” explains Gilchrist. “It doesn’t happen overnight, you can’t just look over at the Irish provinces and say, ‘Oh, they’re successful, that’s what we want to be.’

“You have to look at how you become that, and that’s about how we prepare, our consistency of performance – that’s something we work really hard on all the time.

“When you look at all these teams with historic success and the support, obviously we look at that with envy and that’s what we want to be, but we have to understand the process of getting there.

“Wanting to have the history of Leinster, Munster, and Ulster is one thing but how do you go about getting that?

“It’s about controlling what you do, making sure we keep getting better, and once we can have some success at this club – and I believe we can – then maybe one day we can have that history behind us and teams in the future will feel that confidence going into big games, going, ‘We’re Edinburgh, of course we’re going to win these games.’

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“I think that’s sometimes the feeling that the Munster and Leinster guys can take from their history. They can say, ‘Leinster when they play in big games, we win.’

“We’re trying to forge our own history. That’s exciting, what a great opportunity to be the first Edinburgh team to win silverware. It’s an opportunity like no other and it’s something that the Irish provinces can do because of their history.

“There are different opportunities wherever you are, and ours is doing something that’s not been done before. That’s exciting and that gets you up in the morning.”

grant-gilchrist Gilchrist carries against Ulster last year. Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

Richard Cockerill’s stewardship of Edinburgh has seen the club gradually improving over his three-year reign, with last season bringing a home Champions Cup quarter-final against Munster, which the Scottish club lost 17-13.

Cockerill’s men learned harsh lessons in that knock-out tie which they hope stand to them tomorrow at Murrayfield.

“We gave away a couple of silly penalties in that last 10 minutes and it led to us going from having field position where we were up by three points, then we concede a penalty in mid-pitch and we get pushed back into our 22 and Munster score,” recalls Gilchrist.

“We looked more at how we can control that mid-pitch area if we’ve got a lead, what decisions we make individually – whether it’s controlling your own discipline to make sure you don’t do anything silly – but also controlling the game in that area.

“We might look to kick and force teams in and tactically be a bit smarter in the way we see out a game, make teams go from deep.

“On that occasion, we actually had penalty advantage and we gave away a silly penalty for a block [by Pierre Schoeman on Tadhg Beirne] or something like that, which is an individual thing and not necessarily a team thing but can also apply to team mentality.

“Your discipline has to be top-level in these big games because one slip of discipline, making a mistake, not sticking to systems – these moments can change games.

“If we had taken our chances, we could have been further ahead and that’s what we looked at as well. When we get chances on Saturday night, we want to make sure we turn them into points because that’s the key to playing these games.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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