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.
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.