Edinburgh make nine changes for crunch match with Agen

Some key forwards rested, but others return for Champions Cup pool decider

Pierre Schoeman
Pierre Schoeman returns to the Edinburgh front row for the match against Agen. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson.

RICHARD Cockerill has changed more than half his starting line-up for tomorrow’s Challenge Cup match against Agen at Murrayfield, keeping just one forward as well as five backs from the team that lost to Bordeaux last week.

Blair Kinghorn and Matt Scott are the backs who drop out, and are replaced by Damian Hoyland and George Taylor respectively. In the pack, Hamish Watson is the only survivor from the visit to France, although Mike Willemse and Rory Sutherland, who started that 32-17 loss, are on the bench tomorrow.

While the back division and the back row are not at full strength, the front five looks formidable thanks to the return of Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist. Chris Dean, meanwhile, is named on the bench as he completes his return from injury.

Bordeaux have already won the group thanks to their win over Edinburgh last week, but Cockerill’s team are currently the best-placed runners-up, and a bonus-point victory over Agen will book their place in the quarter-finals. They will have an away tie in the last eight, against one of the four best group winners, who are likely to be Bristol, Toulon, Cockerill’s old club Leicester, or Bordeaux themselves.

“We’re starting to mature as a team now and I think we’re mature enough to say that this is a game we should win with four tries and five points,” the head coach said. “We’ve got to go out there, lay it on the field and just do it – rather than make it a struggle. That’s a different challenge for us and in some ways a harder challenge than being the underdog.

“We’re looking forward to the match. I expect us to put in a proper professional performance and get the job done.”

Scotland trio Stuart McInally, Magnus Bradbury and Jamie Ritchie are listed as unavailable.

Edinburgh (v Agen at BT Murrayfield, Saturday 3pm): D Hoyland; D Graham, M Bennett, G Taylor, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Groom; P Schoeman, D Cherry, W Nel, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, L Crosbie, H Watson, N Haining. Substitutes: M Willemse, R Sutherland, P Ceccarelli, F McKenzie, J Barclay, H Pyrgos, S Hickey, C Dean.

Agen: L Berdeu; J Taulagi, J Sadie, N Decron, B Masilevu; R Lagarde, P Abadie; G Tetrashvili, C Martinez, W Desmaison, P Phillips, A Motoc, R Briatte (captain), J Jegerlhener, D Hayes. Substitutes:P Ngauamo, F Correa, C Chabeaudie, A Tarazona, G Maravat, H Verdu, S Vaka, J Jane.

Referee: C Maxwell-Keys (England).

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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.