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Fraser McKenzie will have the chance to say a proper farewell to the Edinburgh supporters on Saturday when he delivers the match ball ahead of the match against Newcastle Falcons.
The popular forward was forced to retire from professional rugby last season due to a persistent shoulder injury which is still causing him problems. McKenzie, who also played for Newcastle, had two stints at Edinburgh, whom he joined from school, and has a special affection for the capital side.
“I’m a Dunfermline boy but Edinburgh felt very much like my hometown club,” said the 33-year-old. “You can play anywhere in the world but there’s nothing like playing at the club you love. They guys are fantastic and the way they treat you is brilliant.
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“I’m looking forward to Saturday, I got a phone call last week, saying ‘do you fancy doing it’, and I was like ‘of course!’. With no crowds last season I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to everyone, so it was nice to be asked.”
Saturday’s match is the club’s first at the new Edinburgh Rugby Stadium and also marks Mike Blair’s bow as head coach after he replaced Richard Cockerill. The game is close to a sell-out and McKenzie thinks the flit from 67-000-capacity Murrayfield is long overdue and will help Edinburgh strengthen their identity.
“There’s no point in having 7,000 fans at Murrayfield when you can still hear a pin drop,” said McKenzie. “Put even 5,000 fans in this new stadium and it’s going to create that atmosphere that they’ve really needed.”
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He played alongside Blair at both Edinburgh and Newcastle and was impressed with the former scrum-half’s work alongside Gregor Townsend as Scotland assistant coach. And while he speaks highly of the impact Cockerill made on the capital club, McKenzie believes the Englishman’s time in charge might have reached a natural endpoint.
“The timing of things was a bit of surprise but Mike’s obviously been very good for Scotland and I think he’s going to be really good for Edinburgh.
“He thinks the same way as Gregor, they like to play the same way. I think the transition from the pro sides to the national team has to be seamless and they’ll probably want to play in similar ways and I think that suits the profile of Edinburgh as they move forward.
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“It was four years for Cockers and for any team or coach, sometimes that’s a natural lifespan.
“Cockers was great for Edinburgh. He instilled the discipline and structure that was needed but I don’t know if he maybe fancied a fresh challenge or whether it was Edinburgh or maybe just a mutual thing, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Mike goes with a young, exciting team.”
McKenzie will have a watching brief only now after calling time on his career in April following a series of shoulder injuries. He made 119 appearances for Edinburgh either side of spells at Sale and Newcastle and hopes to remain in the game.
“I’m quite keen to get into coaching, do my coaching badges, but unfortunately none of that is up and running yet,” he said. “I’ve had a few coaching offers to do amateur stuff but I just think it’s maybe better holding off this season.”
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