Connacht v Edinburgh preview: Bill Mata and Mike Willemse return

Eleven players are absent on Scotland duty while nine others are on the injury list

Bill Mata in action for Edinburgh against Dragons. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.

RICHARD Cockerill has made just two changes to his Edinburgh team to play Connacht tomorrow night from the one that would have started the postponed match against Benetton last weekend. Bill Mata, ruled out of that game because of injury, returns to the back row, while Mike Willemse is promoted from the bench as Dave Cherry is on Scotland duty.

Eleven players in all are unavailable to Cockerill for the PRO14 game because they are with the national team, while nine others are on the injury list. In addition to Cherry, those on Scotland duty are: Simon Berghan,  Grant Gilchrist, Darcy Graham, Nick Haining, Willem Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt and Hamish Watson. The injury list comprises Lewis Carmichael, Dan Gamble, Nic Groom, Charlie Jupp, Blair Kinghorn, Stuart McInally, Fraser McKenzie, Dan Nutton and Ben Toolis.

There are three potential debutants on the bench: stand-off Charlie Savala, hooker Sam Kitchen and tighthead prop Angus Williams. Savala and Kitchen joined the squad at the start of the season, while Williams was signed by Watsonians for this season’s Super6 campaign but hasn’t had a chance to play for the Myreside club yet.

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Edinburgh still have a slight chance of getting into the top three in Conference B, and Cockerill insisted his team would fight all the way while that chance was still alive. “Our goal is to qualify for the Champions Cup and while that remains mathematically possible it’s exactly what we’ll be going out there to do tomorrow,” the head coach said.

“Galway is a tough hunting ground for travelling teams and they’ve performed very well this season and deserve their place as the current runner-up in our conference. [Connacht head coach] Andy Friend has them well coached, so it’ll will take an excellent performance from us to come away with the points this weekend.”

Edinburgh (v Connacht at The Sportsground, Saturday 7.35pm): D Hoyland; J Blain, J Johnstone, G Taylor, E Sau; N Chamberlain, C Shiel; P Schoeman (captain), M Willemse, L Atalifo, M Bradbury, A Davidson, L Crosbie, A Miller, V Mata. Substitutes: S Kitchen, B Venter, A Williams, J Hodgson, M Kunavula, H Pyrgos, C Savala, M Bennett.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1393 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.


  1. McCallum isn’t listed as injured. Nel and Berghan are both away on Scotland duty and he isn’t even getting a go on the bench. Surely he cannot be 5th choice tight head?

    I’m worried that Cockerill has lost faith in him but he is 100% good enough for this level.

    If I were him I’d be looking for another club ASAP. A season killing it as first choice in the ProD2 might be what he needs as he has had hardly any game time in 2 seasons now.

    Need him to step up for Scotland as Nel is on his way out.

    Imagine any test from 2022 onwards and Fagerson and/or Berghan get injured/suspended.

  2. Don’t understand why Connor Boyle is getting so little opportunity at a crucial stage in his development. Compare this to the game time Cameron Henderson has had this season at Leicester.


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