Edinburgh looking for solid start in Wales
Edinburgh Rugby will be looking to pick up where they left off last season, as they begin their Pro 14 Campaign with a trip to Ospreys tonight. Iain Leggat previews.
Richard Cockerill is looking to start where he left off after selecting a heavy weight line up for Edinburgh’s opening Pro 14 encounter away to the Ospreys.
The capital side features four players making their debut including South African prop Pierre Schoeman, former Glasgow Warrior and Scotland international Henry Pyrgos and back row Luke Hamilton.
Joining them is New Zealander Simon Hickey, who head coach Cockerill hopes will add the number 10 magic that Edinburgh lacked over last season.
With the loss of the ever reliable Duncan Weir, who salvaged victories for the capital outfit on various occasions in the 17/18 season, most notable being his dramatic injury time drop kick to snatch victory away at Ulster, Edinburgh will be hoping Hickey can add the flair that Finn Russell and up and comer Adam Hastings have brought to Glasgow Warriors.
Accompanying Hickey is a strong and versitable back line made up of Blair Kinghorn, who was one of the Pro 14’s star players last season, Scotland centres Mark Bennett and Mark Scott join wingers Dougie Fife and the South African powerhouse Duhan Van Der Merwe to complete the back line. Van Der Merwe will be hoping to find the try line early on and better his impressive haul of 12 tries in last years campaign.
The forward pack is packed full of talent including the return of Hamish Watson. Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrest, Simon Berghan and Bill Mata will hope to provide the brutish power that aided Edinburgh last season, and completing the line up is Stuart McInally who starts this season as Captain.
Question marks hovered whether McInally’s appointment may just be to pass time until John Barclay makes his recovery from injury, but after a strong showing for both club and country last year, including victory in the 1872 cup over rivals Glasgow, Cockerill has full confidence in the hooker.
Ospreys are to be led out by Welsh international and newly appointed captain Justin Tipuric, with Alun-Wyn Jones returning to the side. Former Northampton Saint George North makes his return to Welsh domestic rugby and Scott Williams adds the fire power to the back line at centre.
Edinburgh won one and lost one of their pre-season matches, with a scrappy and tightly fought loss against Bath at Meggetland, and a convincing win away at Newcastle. Cockerill currently holds a win percentage of 69% after his first season at the helm. He will be hoping his new additions will strengthen an already confident side.
Kick off – 19:35
Ospreys: Dan Evans; George North, Scott Williams, Owen Watkin, Hanno Dirksen; Luke Price, Aled Davies; Nicky Smith, Scott Otten, Tom Botha, Bradley Davies, Alun-Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric (capt), James King
Replacements: Baldwin, R Jones, Jeffries, Beard, Cross, Habberfield, S Davies, Thomas.
Edinburgh Rugby: Blair Kinghorn; Dougie Fife, Mark Bennett, Mark Scott, Duhan Van der Merwe; Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally (capt), Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Luke Hamilton, Hamish Watson, Bill Mata.
Replacements: Ford, Dell, McCallum, McKenzie, Ritchie, Kennedy, Van der Walt, Johnstone.