Bennett and Scott partnership gets trial run in Edinburgh’s Falcons friendly

Luke Hamilton in action against Bath last week. Image: © Craig Watson.

RICHARD Cockerill has made half a dozen changes to his starting line-up for Edinburgh’s friendly against Newcastle, and the result is something far closer to what his first-choice line-up is likely to be compared to the team that took the field against Bath last week. The likes of Blair Kinghorn have still to see action, and Simon Hickey is rested after taking a knock in that 12-10 defeat at Meggetland, but there are still some fascinating combinations that could become regular partnerships.

Mark Bennett and Matt Scott play together at centre, for example, while Luke Hamilton, a replacement last week, starts in the back row alongside Hamish Watson and Bill Mata. Scrum-half Henry Pyrgos also starts for the first time, and has Jaco van der Walt outside him. On the bench, meanwhile, there are places for Scotland props Allan Dell and Willem Nel and for back-row forward Luke Crosbie. “We’re not far away from what will play the Ospreys,” Cockerill said, referring to next Friday night’s opening PRO14 game. “I’m still trying to bed in the new signings.

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“The only important thing is to win at Ospreys. Of course we want to play well and win [against Newcastle], but it’s not the be all and end all, because there are a lot of competitive games to come and you can’t bang the drum and play your cup final every week.

“I thought the intensity was pretty good last week, but you always want to be as intense, physical and accurate as possible. When we put the right 23 together for the Ospreys we’ll know more about ourselves.”

While the pairing of Bennett and Scott could be a very fruitful one, Cockerill is keen to emphasise that they will face a fight to hold on to the 12 and 13 jerseys. “It’s good to get the combination. They’re two Test midfielders, they’ve both played for Scotland together, and you’d like to think that if we can get that combination working well it’ll be of some benefit for us.

“But there’s going to be some competition. Chris Dean played very well for us last year, [Juan Pablo] Socino’s a very good player, Jimmy Johnstone has performed well and young George Taylor’s been very good in pre-season too. So there’s going to be rotation, there’s going to be injuries and form, so it will be good to see them play together and see how they get on.”

The Newcastle line-up includes Scotland centre Chris Harris and the English Premiership’s player of the season in 2017-18, winger Vereniki Goneva. The Falcons, who beat Leinster 42-17 in Dublin last weekend, have also named Socino’s brother Santiago, a hooker, on the bench.

Edinburgh (v Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park, Friday, 7.45pm): D Fife; T Brown, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, M McCallum, F McKenzie, B Toolis, L Hamilton, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: A Dell, W Nel, R Ford, C Hunter-Hill, C Atkinson, J Ritchie, L Crosbie, S Nayalo, S Kennedy, J Baggott, J Farndale, C Dean, J Socino, J Johnstone, G Taylor, J Hodgson, C Shiel, P Ceccarelli, D Cherry, J Blain.

Newcastle: S Hammersley; V Goneva, C Harris, J Williams, A Radwan; T Flood,  S Stuart; S Mavinga, G McGuigan, L Mulipola, W Witty, S Robinson, M Wilson, W Welch, C Chick. Substitutes: S Socino, A Brocklebank, D Wilson, T Cavubati, G Young, S Uzokwe, T Marshall, S Takulua, J Hodgson, S Sinoti, J Matavesi, A Tait.


About Stuart Bathgate 1428 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.