RICHARD Cockerill has made seven changes to his Edinburgh team for tomorrow night’s PRO14 game against Cardiff, five of them in the pack.
Lee Roy Atalifo will make his debut at tighthead alongside hooker David Cherry, Andries Ferreira makes his first start at lock and partners Jamie Hodgson , and in the back row, Luke Crosbie returns from injury. In the back division, Eroni Sau is on the wing after missing last week’s win over Scarlets because his wife had just given birth, and Nathan Chamberlain is in at 10 instead of Jaco van der Walt, who is quarantining after returning from getting married in South Africa.
Of the five forwards on the bench, one, Mike Willemse, has made 25 appearances. The other four have made two between them. Two of the three back replacements are scrum-halves, emphasising the strength that Edinburgh have in that position but also highlighting just how many players are missing this week because of international selection.
A dozen players – Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Darcy Graham, Nick Haining, Blair Kinghorn, Stuart McInally, Duhan van der Merwe, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, Ben Toolis, and Hamish Watson – are on Scotland duty, while Mesulame Kunavula is with Fiji.
The injury list comprises Lewis Carmichael, Andrew Davidson, Grant Gilchrist, Matt Gordon, Damien Hoyland, Bill Mata, Murray McCallum, Fraser McKenzie and George Taylor.
Include Van der Walt in the list, and the number of unavailable players rises to 23 – a complete matchday squad. The absence of so many will clearly be a severe handicap, but captain Henry Pyrgos believes the team can take confidence from last week’s spirited performance in Llanelli, where they beat Scarlets 6-3 to claim their first win of the season. “Results-wise it obviously hasn’t been what we wanted – we’ve lost three and won one, so that’s not been ideal,” he said.
“But performance-wise I think we’ve been playing well. I think there’s been lots of stuff that we’ve been doing well, but as always at this level there are some small areas of our game that we need to be better on. We’ve been working hard to improve that.
“Last weekend wasn’t an easy outing, but the guys really stuck in and it was brilliant to get the win and build a bit of confidence. And great to get some points on the board.”
“On a day like that it was huge from our forward pack – they were brilliant at the set piece and WP was a massive part of that. We’d watched the international match the day before and we knew all week the weather wasn’t going to be great.
“Yeah, I thought we stuck in really well. It was always going to be tight – a penalty here or there was going to decide it. It was great to see that, and definitely something to build on moving forward.
“It was great to get the win, but tomorrow is a completely different challenge against Cardiff and the weather will be different. We know they’ve got a lot of threats around the pitch. We’ll have to be really on it, go out there, start again and really put in a good performance and give ourselves a chance to be in with a win.”
Edinburgh (v Cardiff Blues at BT Murrayfield, Monday 7.45pm): J Blain; E Sau, M Bennett, C Dean, J Farndale; N Chamberlain, H Pyrgos (captain); P Schoeman, D Cherry, L Atalifo, A Ferreira, J Hodgson, M Bradbury, L Crosbie, A Miller. Substitutes: M Willemse, S Grahamslaw, D Gamble, M Sykes, C Boyle, N Groom, C Shiel, J Johnstone.