SIX more internationalist recently returned from World Cup duty have been added to Edinburgh’s match-day squad for the capital outfit’s first home game of the season against Emirates Lions at the Hive Stadium tomorrow night [Saturday at 5pm].
Grant Gilchrist – fresh from being appointed co-captain of the squad – starts, although scrum-half Ben Vellacott will skipper the team so that the second-row can focus on getting his feet back under the table at club level. The other returning internationalists are full-back Blair Kinghorn, flanker Hamish Watson, Fijian No 8 Viliame Mata, replacement hooker Euan Ashman and replacement prop WP Nel.
Edinburgh are looking to build on a scrappy win away to the Dragons in round one of this URC campaign, and pick up their first win over the Lions since the league was expanded to include South Africa’s four former Super Rugby franchises in 2021.
“We’re delighted to welcome back a number of internationalists to our match-day squad, they add further strength and experience as we take on a hugely competitive Emirates Lions side,” said Edinburgh ‘senior’ coach Sean Everitt.
“We’re really excited to get back to Hive Stadium after opening the Championship on the road and it will be brilliant to be back in front of the Edinburgh supporters – they really do provide us with an energy and a spark.
“Although we weren’t altogether pleased with last weekend’s performance, we showed plenty of physicality and resilience to come away with a hard-fought win away from home.
“We’ll need to repeat those levels of physicality tomorrow night if we’re to come out on top – it’s set to be a massive night of rugby at Hive Stadium.”
Kinghorn returns to the back-three which also includes Wes Goosen and GB Sevens flyer Ross McCann – a debutant in last weekend’s win in Newport who will return to Team GB Sevens duty next weekend – on opposite wings.
Ashman will make competitive debut if called upon from the bench, having featured for the club in a pre-season friendly against London Scottish while on loan from Sale Sharks in 2019.
There is a potent wing threat call van der Merwe making their first URC appearance of the season in this game but unfortunately for home fans it is Edwill of the Lions rather than Duhan of Edinburgh who has been handed his team’s No 11 jersey, with the Emirates Lions Player of the Year for 2022-23 returning from injury.
Edinburgh Rugby (versus Emirates Lions at the Hive Stadium in the BKT United Rugby Championship on Saturday at 5pm): B Kinghorn; R McCann, M Bennett, M Currie, W Goosen; B Healy, B Vellacott ©; B Venter, D Cherry, J Sebastian, G Young, G Gilchrist, L Crosbie, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: E Ashman, R Hislop, W Nel, M Sykes, C Boyle, C Shiel, C Scott, C Dean.
Unavailable: Luan de Bruin (back), Darcy Graham (hip), Jake Henry (knee), Mikey Jones (ankle), James Lang (calf), Ben Muncaster (knee), Sam Skinner (knee), Scott Steele (hip), Nathan Sweeney (hamstring), Tim Swiel (ankle), Jamie Ritchie (shoulder).
Substitutes: Q Horn; R Kriel, H van Wyk, M Louw©, E van der Merwe; H Hendrikse, S Nohamba; C Fourie, B Botha, R Dreyer, R Schoeman, D Landsberg, E Tshituka, R Venter, F Horn. Substitutes: J Visagie, M Naude, A Ntlabakanye, W Alberts, H Sirgel, M van den Berg, R Jonke, A Coetzee.