The 2023/24 season felt a little strange to me when it started back in October. We had waited through, what felt like, the longest pre-season ever.

Scotland had left the World Cup at the pool stages meaning we had some of our Scotland squad back, we had a new head coach who had been announced fairly close to the start of the season and we had lost quite a large number of players from the previous season including some former key men like Stuart McInally, Jaco van der Walt, Damien Hoyland and Henry Pyrgos. It felt a little like a leap in to the unknown.

Sitting now at the halfway point in the URC season and in sixth place on the table it’s sometimes easy to reflect on the ones that got away.

Realistically though apart from Benetton at home I don’t feel like any of the others can be that surprising. Disappointing maybe as I believe we have the capability of beating any team on our best day, but not surprising.

We lost to Leinster at the RDS but honestly who hasn’t lost to Leinster at the RDS? And we lost to Glasgow at Scotstoun. We all know Glasgow have made Scotstoun a real fortress, something I feel we are working towards, but beating them at home is a formidable task.

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This season in the URC we have beaten the Dragons, Lions, Connacht, Bulls, Ulster and Glasgow. That is quite a heady list of teams. Beating Ulster at Kingspan Stadium was the highlight of the season so far, it’s such a hard place to get a win. Beating Glasgow at Murrayfield always feels good too.

So with our record sitting at 6 wins and only 3 losses it seems like we should be flying high, even Leinster at the top of the table only have 7 wins and 2 losses. The biggest difference is the bonus points as the teams above us are quite simply scoring more tries than we are. With Sean Everitt now having signed a 2 year extension along with the rest of the coaching staff I feel this is what will come. The first couple of years is always a settling period and a case of them adapting to the players they have rather before they can start shaping the squad the way they want. We definitely have the skills to get more tries so I am confident it will come.

In the second half of the season we face Zebre, Ospreys, Stormers, Sharks, Scarlets, Cardiff, Zebre (again), Munster and Benetton (again). The Stormers and Sharks matches will be tough as those matches are in SA but we have won in South Africa before, I believe we can do it again, in fact we were the first European team to win against a SA team in the URC when we beat the Sharks in March 2022. Munster are always a challenge and facing Benetton again, this time away from home, can never be banked on. We have a lot of challenges ahead

In Europe we now have confirmed that we get a home match against Aviron Bayonnais on April 6 and if we get past them we could potentially face the Sharks.

A couple of players who have really stood out for me this year are Wes Goosen and Harry Paterson. I was a Goosen fan before he joined us as I follow the Hurricanes and never felt like he really showed what he was capable of until this season, sometimes he’s felt like bugs bunny from one of those old Looney Tunes cartoons when he plays every position on the baseball field, it’s like everywhere you look there is Wes Goosen. And Harry has shown that he is a strong contender. Playing on the wing against Ulster and fullback against Castres he was just so strong defensively and now getting his first call up to Scotland camp makes us all really proud of him.

The re-signing of Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe along with Sam Skinner and Grant Gilchrist have been a massive boost and we look forward to more signings and re-signings over the next few months.

That leads to the biggest surprise of the season so far, Ali Price making the switch down the M8 to join us until the end of the season. I don’t think any of us saw that coming.

That being said, with Scott Steele still injured it was nice to bolster our scrum-half position and he has given some good competition for Ben Vellacott.

Vellacott continues to show his quality and with differing styles between the two of them it helps keep the opposition on their toes.

On the opposite end of the scale the loss of Blair Kinghorn and the news that Bill Mata will be leaving us at the end of the season has been a really big blow to the fans.

Both have been key for the club over the years and losing them from the club is and will be keenly felt.

Both gave us so much and while it is hard saying goodbye I don’t think any of us begrudge them their chances and I think most of us feel an element of pride seeing Kinghorn playing so well and being adored by the French crowd, he’s ours and he always will be.

For me the most exciting thing that has happened this season though was the introduction of our woman’s team and their inclusion in the Celtic Challenge.

Having currently played five matches and won four, our ladies are looking like a force to be reckoned with and have qualified for the play-offs in second place. We have our first playoff match against the Wolfhounds on February 17 at Hive Stadium with our other playoff match being against the Clovers on March 3 at Parc y Scarlets.

With a smattering of international players like Lisa Thomson and Emma Orr adding experience to the squad it’s been the girls who have stepped up a level that have  impressed me, Merryn Gunderson, Adelle Ferrie and Briar McNamara to mention just a few.

These ladies are our core, what we build from and are the potential Scotland stars of the future. I feel Sarah Denholm has captained the team with poise and authority setting a great example to the rest of the team.

While there is still a lot to work on I feel like with Claire Cruikshank at the wheel and the dedication shown by our players and coaches the future is bright for our ladies.

So as we move into the second half of the URC season, the last 16 in the Challenge Cup, and the play-offs in the Celtic Challenge it’s a time to look forward with anticipation and excitement.

As always we’ll chant out Ed-in-burgh loud and proud and our hearts will say “I wanna be an Edinburgh gunner".