THE Edinburgh Rugby ‘A’ squad which will play a friendly match against English Championship outfit, Doncaster Knights, this evening, will feature a cross-section of players from Super Series, the FOSROC Academy, Team GB 7s and the senior pro set-up, plus replacement tight-head prop Craig Miller who started the season playing for Marr in the Premiership.
For the visitors, winger Lewis Wells, centre Matt Davidson, second-rows Ronan Seydak and Jamie Campbell and replacement stand-off Liam Richman were regular members of the Heriot’s Super Series squad in the recent Super Series Championship, while second-row James Pow and centre Marcus Holden of Stirling Wolves as well as flanker Karl Main and prop Craig Davidson of Watsonians are all also on the bench.
Replacement hooker Jerry Blyth-Lafferty and replacement scrum-half Finlay Burgess are members of he senior academy at Edinburgh.
Fit again full-back Nathan Sweeney, stand-off Cammy Jones (who wore the No 10 for the senior team against Clermont last weekend) and replacement prop Mike Jones are first year pros at Edinburgh having graduated from the academy during the summer.
The remainder of the squad – centre Chris Dean, scrum-half Charlie Shiel, loose-head Boan Venter, hooker Patrick Harrison, tight-head Angus Williams and back-rowers Conor Boyle, Tom Dodd and Ben Muncaster – are all senior squad members who have had varying amounts of game time in recent seasons.
The side will be coached by Heriot’s Super Series head coach Ben Cairns alongside former Scotland and Edinburgh hooker Ross Ford, who is now an S&C coach with the Borders academy and an assistant coach of Southern Knights Super Series team.
“This match is a great opportunity to give younger guys, and perhaps those that need a bit of game time, meaningful minutes against a strong Doncaster Knights side,” said Cairns. “There is a strong blend of youth and experience named for tonight’s match-up, while it’s great to see exciting players like Nathan Sweeney return from injury to feature.
“We’re really looking forward to the challenge and there will hopefully be a cracking atmosphere at Castle Park tonight come kick-off.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh ‘senior’ coach Sean Everitt will not make the trip to Castle Park but focus instead one the top side’s preparation for their Challenge Cup clash against Castres tomorrow afternoon, but promised that he will go through footage of the match with a fine tooth comb as he sees the reprisal of this level of match as a key ingredient to creating a competitive squad environment for the senior team.
“I think an ‘A’ team competition would be great if they could create one,” he said. “For me, it is about giving opportunities to guys who have been training. To keep a happy environment, guys need to play because if they are playing they are competing for a position in the team.
“So a happy players is always a player who is getting an opportunity on the field in a competitive match, and these ‘A’ games also serve as an opportunity for us to bring guys in who have been performing well in Super6 or training.
“So, tonight we have guys like Boan Venter and Charlie Shiel, and it is important to keep those guys sharp. But at the same time, it is an opportunity for them to put a hand up for selection. We will always pick our best team and if a guy is in form in those games they will be selected for the URC or EPCR.
Asked how often he would like to see Edinburgh’s A team in action, Everitt replied: “I think for us, every second or third week would be great because you have to focus on your main team, and you need numbers to prepare that team, and I don’t think our squad would be big enough to separate the ‘A’ team from the main team – it just wouldn’t be financially viable to do that.
“But certainly once a fortnight or once every three weeks would be perfect to give the guys an opportunity to showcase their talent and put their hand up for selection.
“We have been out watching Super Series, and they are recorded so we are able to see the guys who are in form,” he added. “Lewis Wells played extremely well against Glasgow A [in a behind-closed-doors ‘A’ match a few weeks ago], as did Liam Richman, so they are guys who are on our radar.
“We also have a guy like Jordan Edmunds who hasn’t played in the last two sevens tournaments on the wing tonight as well, so it is an opportunity for those guys, and if we can bring players into the URC squads on long-term contracts who have come through the system – and the Super6 system – then I think it is a win for Scottish rugby.”
Everitt and his fellow coaches, and perhaps a few other influential figures in the SRU performance department, will also be keeping an eye on some Doncaster Knights players, with their starting back-row featuring three of the outstanding performers in a struggling Scotland Under-20s side during the last couple of years in the shape of Archie Smeaton, Rhys Tait and Ollie Leatherbarrow.
Meanwhile, Doncaster winger Maliq Holden is the younger brother of Marcus (the Edinburgh ‘A’ replacement centre mentioned above).
Edinburgh Rugby ‘A’ (versus Doncaster Knight at Castle Park on Friday at 7.30pm): N Sweeney; L Wells, Davidson, C Dean, J Edmunds; C Scott, C Shiel; B Venter, P Harrison, A Williams, R Seydak, J Campbell, T Dodd, C Boyle, B Muncaster. Substitutes: J Blyth-Lafferty, M Jones, C Miller, J Pow, K Main, F Burgess, L Richman, M Holden, C Davidson.
Doncaster Knights: B McBryde; J Metcalf, V Qorowale, J Bedlow, M Holden; S Olver, O Fox; H Courteney, T Doughty, K Garside, A Hopkinson, E Mintern, R Tait, A Smeaton, O Leatherbarrow. Substitues: G Roberts, C Mitchell, C Barrett, F Brown, J Digby, W Metcalfe, R Bennett, C Edwards.