As Edinburgh headed out on a potentially treacherous trip in October they had been badly let down by men they thought they could rely on.

Magnus Bradbury and John Hardie have since been punished for their misdemeanours, but as modern coaches are so fond of saying there are no problems, only challenges that bring with them opportunities for others.

Luke Crosbie had already begun to seize his, coming off the bench to make his debut in a scratchy win against Zebre in the Pro14 before making even more of an impression when he scored the last of their five tries in the 37-14 win at London Irish that got their European Challenge Cup campaign off to the perfect start.

The 20-year-old academy player consequently claimed a unique place in Scottish rugby history by making his first professional start in Russia and, confronted by men who had got the better of Stade Francais, drawing praise from his clubmates and team management for the way he took the game to the big men from Siberia, carrying the ball willingly and effectively throughout as they racked up a 73-14 win that puts them in pole position in their pool.

As the return matches take place in Edinburgh this weekend and next, then, the entire team is looking to do what Crosbie has done in the interim, by consolidating their position ahead of back-to-back meetings in January with current Challenge Cup holders Stade.

“It has been really quick,” Crosbie admitted. “If you had asked me in the summer if by now I would have one appearance then I would have said ‘no chance’.

“Obviously looking back I have got seven caps at a pro level while when I came back from the (Scotland) under-20s in the summer I thought it might take me a while to even train with the pros.

“Coming in and getting my first cap obviously since then I have just worked hard and Cockers (head coach Richard Cockerill) says ‘if you work hard then you get to play’ so from a young boy/Academy perspective that is what you want. It doesn’t matter how many caps you have or your name, if you work hard then you will get a chance.”

He is grateful for the help from more experienced players that has helped him take it.

“To be honest everyone has been helpful. I was at bit worried thinking ‘where do I sit in the changing rooms’ trying not to annoy anyone,” he laughed.

“I remember in the pre-season camp in St Andrews sitting there with Ross Ford and talking through the game and no matter what the position he knows the game inside and out and that was quite a big thing for me and I just try to grasp all the knowledge I can.

“There is quite a big jump in the speed and the detail (but) I have tried to get up to speed with positioning and set piece and tried to learn the tricks when you train that all the older boys use. Obviously it is quite a big jump because a lot of the boys around me have international caps, but I think I have always dealt with the physical aspect well. I want to make tackles and carry hard, but for me most of my learning came from my positioning and identifying game analysis and learning more so I can challenge others.”

As he seeks to do so there is, though, no indication that he feels in any way overawed by the company he is keeping.

“I don’t focus on anyone else, although I have got internationals around me and I have learnt a lot from them in terms of like whether they are back or not I just try to have the mindset that I am young so I want to learn as much as I can from everyone in the team no matter their position,” said Crosbie. “I just focus hard at training at building my skills and then working hard in the gym and if the chance comes on the pitch I have to take it. There is no point worrying thinking ‘he’s going to come back in I’m not going to play.’ I don’t think that way… I have quite a selfish mindset I just want to make myself better and whatever happens happens.”

That is the sort of selfishness that most sports coaches are only too happy to deal with, his outlook serving Edinburgh well and perhaps as an example to some of the more senior figures in the squad as they bid to ensure that they remain on course to reach the knockout stages in Europe.

HeraldScotland | Sport

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