Edinburgh drop Pierre Schoeman and Duhan van der Merwe for Benetton clash

Bill Mata comes on to the bench for first game since playing for Fiji in World Cup

Richard Cockerill
Richard Cockerill's Edinburgh team have already lost and drawn against Bordeaux this season. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.

EDINBURGH may have put in their best performance of the season so far against Scarlets last week, but that has not stopped Richard Cockerill from shaking up the side for tomorrow’s PRO14 match against Benetton.

There are two changes in the back division and three up front to the starting line-up from the 46-7 win over the Welsh team.  Behind the scrum, Damien Hoyland comes in on the left-wing in place of last week’s hat-trick hero Duhan van der Merwe and Jaco van der Walt resumes at stand-off instead of Simon Hickey. Up front, Jamie Bhatti is at loosehead instead of Pierre Schoeman, Lewis Carmichael is at lock instead of the injured Murray Douglas, and Magnus Bradbury is in the back row instead of Nick Haining, who is also injured.

It is a testament to the depth in the squad, as well as being a recognition of how long and fatiguing the season is, that Cockerill feels able to omit such key players as Van der Merwe and Schoeman. The latter is on the bench and should see action at some station, but the winger is not in the 23 at all.

“We were really pleased with our all-round performance against Scarlets last weekend and the players come into this fixture with plenty of confidence and a bit of momentum,” Cockerill said. “We continue to build and develop our playing style as a team and this weekend’s match will be another massive test. Benetton are a really combative outfit who are always strong at home.

“We make a number of changes to the starting line-up, but we have plenty of faith in the guys who come in and we possess more than enough quality across the board to come away from Treviso with a positive result.”

Scrum-half Nic Groom returns to the bench after the briefest of paternity breaks, replacing the injured Charlie Shiel. Henry Pyrgos, a late replacement at No 9 for Groom last week, retains the jersey and the captaincy. Bill Mata is included in the squad for the first time since representing Fiji at the World Cup, and there is also a place on the bench for hooker David Cherry, making his comeback from injury. In addition to Douglas, Shiel and Haining, Darryl Marfo, Hamish Watson, Chris Dean, Ruan Steenkamp are all listed as unavailable due to injury.

Benetton coach Kieran Crowley has made six changes to his side, which won for the first time last week after getting the league campaign off to a start with three defeats.

Edinburgh (v Benetton at the Stadio Monigo, Saturday, 5.15pm British time): Blair Kinghorn; Eroni Sau, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Damien Hoyland; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos (captain); Jamie Bhatti, Mike Willemse, Pietro Ceccarelli, Fraser McKenzie, Lewis Carmichael, Ally Miller, Luke Crosbie, Magnus Bradbury. Subs: David Cherry, Pierre Schoeman, Murray McCallum, Sam Thomson, Viliame Mata, Nic Groom, Simon Hickey, George Taylor.

Benetton: Jayden Hayward; Ratuva Tavuyara, Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Benvenuti, Angelo Esposito; Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage; Federico Zani, Tomas Baravalle, Tiziano Pasquali, Irné Herbst, Eli Snyman, Sebastian Negri, Abraham Steyn, Toa Halafihi. Subs: Hame Faiva, Cherif Traore, Michele Mancini Parri, Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Pettinelli, Tito Tebaldi, Antonio Rizzi.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).


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.