A TASK that was already difficult enough for Edinburgh has been made all the more daunting by the loss of several key players to what Richard Cockerill has described as “some bumps and bruises”. Duhan van der Merwe, WP Nel, Mark Bennett, Nic Groom and Roan Frostwick all miss out on the Challenge Cup quarter-final against Bordeaux-Begles in addition to the three players who have longer-term injuries – Henry Pyrgos, Lewis Carmichael and Fraser McKenzie.
The result is a squad which, while still very strong up front, is inexperienced in some departments, above all on the bench, which sees a six-two split between pack and backs. The power of Van der Merwe, in particular, is likely to be sorely missed at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, although the head coach, as ever, was putting a brave face on things when he spoke before flying out with his squad to France.
“Clearly with those four or five experienced guys missing from the squad it’s not a perfect scenario, but the lads that have come in are good players,” Cockerill said. “They want to take their opportunity, and for some of them it will be the first time playing at this level in this environment.
“That’s the game sometimes. We’ve got some bumps and bruises. The guys that are missing would probably be in the 23, but that’s life: we go there and get on with it. That’s the best team we can pick and we’ve prepared well. We’re looking forward to going and playing against a very good team.”
There are seven changes from the 15 which began the PRO14 semi-final defeat by Ulster two weeks ago, four in the back division. Damien Hoyland takes over on the wing from Van der Merwe, and Charlie Shiel is at scrum-half instead of Groom. George Taylor and James Johnstone form the centre partnership in place of Bennett and Chris Dean, with the latter being one of the two backs on the bench along with Heriot’s Super6 No 9 Dan Nutton.
In the pack, Pierre Schoeman is preferred to Rory Sutherland at loosehead, Simon Berghan comes in for Nel, and Jamie Ritchie takes over at blindside from Magnus Bradbury. Sutherland and Bradbury can expect to be called on to play a big role off the bench, as can Nick Haining and Mike Willemse. There is no room in the 23 for back-up stand-off Nathan Chamberlain.
Edinburgh (v Bordeaux-Begles at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, Saturday 12.30pm British time): B Kinghorn; D Graham, J Johnstone, G Taylor, D Hoyland; J van der Walt; C Shiel; P Schoeman, S McInally (captain), S Berghan, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: M Willemse, R Sutherland, M McCallum, A Davidson, M Bradbury, N Haining, D Nutton, C Dean.
Bordeaux-Begles: N Ducuing; S Cordero, J-B Dubié, U Seuteni, B Lam; M Jalibert, Y Lesgourgues; J Poirot (captain), C Maynadier, V Cobilas, K Douglas, J Marais, M Diaby, G Petti, M Tauleigne. Substitutes: J Dweba, L Kaulashvili, B Tameifuna, C Cazeaux, C Woki, M Lucu, B Botica, P Uberti.
Referee: F Murphy (Ireland).