URC: Edinburgh v Lions: six more World Cup players return ahead of first home game of season

Ewan Ashman, Grant Gilchrist, Blair Kinghorn, WP Nel, Pierre Schoeman, Hamish Watson and Fiji star Viliame Mata return to club duty

Edinburgh and Fiji No 8 Viliame Mata in action against the lions last season. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Edinburgh and Fiji No 8 Viliame Mata in action against the lions last season. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SIX more members of Edinburgh’s World Cup contingent – Ewan Ashman, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Hamish Watson, Blair Kinghorn and Fiji star Viliame Mata – returned to training earlier today [Monday], and are in the selection mix for Saturday evening’s URC round two clash against Lions at the Hive Stadium.

That leaves five squad members who have not yet reconnected with the team. Duhan van der Merwe is being given an extended break until next week, Darcy Graham has a hip injury, Jamie Ritchie has a shoulder injury, Pierre Schoeman has returned to South Africa due to a family bereavement and Emiliano Boffelli is still on World Cup duty with Argentina who have a 3rd/4th place play-off clash against England on Friday night.

“It’s great to have the guys back,” said ‘senior’ coach Sean Everitt. “They bring a lot of experience, especially after being at the World Cup, and they are happy to be back. They are comfortable in the environment and they will be in contention for the weekend. Pierre Schoeman isn’t available because he has a family bereavement and we’ve sent him back to South Africa to deal with that.”


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Five World Cuppers – Ben Healy, Luke Crosbie, Sam Skinner, Javan Sebastian and Dave Cherry – came back into the squad last week (although Skinner was a late call-off due to a knee injury) for the capital side’s URC opening weekend win away to the Dragons, which fell some way short of the sort of polished performance Everitt is looking for but provided a timely morale boost following a tough end to last season followed by a six-month off-season.

“It was an ugly win but we’ll take that because we haven’t won [away from home] in a year,” said the South African, who was appointed to his current position in July. “The last time that Edinburgh won away was October 2022 so we are very happy with that.

“Obviously, we aren’t too happy with the performance. Statistically, we did everything required to win the game but our execution let us down. We will give the players some reprieve because it was our first game with lots of new players, so it was never going to be a perfect performance.

“The pleasing thing was that we showed resilience and we stuck to our plan to get the win. The first 20 minutes was an area that let us down but we improved as the game progressed. The guys remained calm and that’s why we were able to pull through.

“We’d been training against each other like it was a game [throughout pre-season] so that provided a benefit. It wasn’t a lack of cohesion from us, it was a lack of accuracy in our execution. We got on top of them in the mauls but we just couldn’t finish them off.

“Our completion in the opposition 22 was really low at 42 percent so we want to get it much higher. We want to finish teams off when we are on top and not give them easy access, which we did.”

Everitt also had words of praise for scrum-half Ben Vellacott, who led the side to victory after being named co-captain of the side during pre-season alongside a yet to be named returning international.

“It’s not easy in your first game when you’re under the pump away from home and we can’t deny that,” said Everitt. “I thought he handled the situation really well, he stayed composed and handled the task really well. He stayed on the field for the full game and Charlie Shiel didn’t get on, not because he’s a bad player, but because we needed Ben’s leadership.

“There’s never a good time to get the Lions,” Everitt added, turning his attention to the next challenge. “They’re a bunch of youngsters who are really keen to impress. They’re a difficult nut to crack and they don’t go away.

“Their style of rugby is unpredictable so we need to be aware they’ll have tricks up their sleeve coming here. But at the same time they’ve got a good set-piece, their scrum is strong, they have some really good athletes, and individuals who can beat players one on one.

“Their loose trio may not be that big but they are certainly dynamic with ball in hand so we need to make sure that we don’t concede too many turnovers against them.”


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About David Barnes 3912 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

2 Comments

  1. Glasgow are phasing players in and giving time off later which really paid off against Leinster, maybe this is Edinburgh’s way of doing it? The lions are a tough call. With DVDM, Boffelli and Darcy all out. the back 3 (except Kinghorn if selected) will be very new. The lions will be a tough test for both the team and the new coach.

  2. Whilst nice to see these players back i hope we are not bringing them in too early.
    Mata-in particular-played every minute of all 5 matches for Fiji including a QF so another week or two off was justified.
    Of the others Gilchrist and Kinghorn played a lot.Would have been good to let the yopungsters have another week at least to show what they can do after a dogged away win at dragons.

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