PRO14: Edinburgh trio pay price for Benetton bungles

Fraser McKenzie out for three months with knee damage

Matt Scott
Matt Scott is one of the players to pay the price for last week's lacklustre showing against Benetton ***Image: © Craig Watson.***

MATT Scott, Dougie Fife and Chris Dean have all paid the price for Edinburgh’s poor performance against Benetton last week, losing their places for tonight’s home game against the Cheetahs. Juan Pablo Socino and James Johnstone replace Scott and Dean in midfield, Darcy Graham is on the right wing instead of Fife, and the fourth change from seven days ago sees Rory Sutherland start at loosehead in place of the rested Allan Dell.

Edinburgh struggled to a 31-30 win over the Italians a week ago, losing the try count 5-4, and Cockerill could have put up a good case for dropping almost anyone from the side for this, the last PRO14 match before the start of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stages. But, while the pack got pass marks for their work in the set piece, the two centres and the winger have been deemed most culpable for the defensive failings.

“I’ve picked the team that I think deserves to play,” Cockerill said when asked if he had rested anyone with Europe in mind. “Some guys have been left out from a selection point of view and Allan Dell is rested through the international protocols.

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“The midfield is picked because the other two didn’t play well enough. It’s the same with Dougie Fife  Darcy gets his opportunity because Dougie has not played well enough for the last three weeks.

“It’s a good side. We need to beat Cheetahs. The league is very important to us and we need the points. If guys don’t do what they need to do then other guys will get their opportunity.

“I’m disappointed in how we let in soft tries {last week] because it’s not like us. We’ve defended very well last year and this year. To be so soft to play against isn’t good enough  it’s as simple as that. Guys have paid for that with their place in the team.”

As this is the first time in five years that Edinburgh have qualified for the Champions Cup, there is mounting excitement within the support and the squad for a campaign that will see Cockerill’s side take on Montpellier, Toulon and Newcastle. But, with his team having played inconsistently in their four league outings to date, the coach has warned that his players will have to focus fully on beating the Cheetahs first.

“We want to play well in the Champions Cup and want to go and do our best, and it gives guys the opportunity to prove themselves at that level  but we have to beat the Cheetahs. We’re not under any illusions about how well we have to play tomorrow night.

“We can’t think about Montpellier until we get this game out of the way. That’s where we’re at as a team. In the big European games we’ll go and do our very best, but they will be a learning curve for us.”

While Pierre Schoeman is suspended and Dell takes a rest, there is still no place in the 23 for Darryl Marfo, who this time last year was on his way to earning a Scotland call-up. Murray McCallum, although primarily seen as a tighthead, is the replacement at loosehead for Sutherland.

“At the moment he’s not playing as well as the others,” Cockerill said of Marfo, who has been making appearances for Boroughmuir in recent weeks. “Until he does he won’t get his opportunity.

“I watch him train every day. When I think he deserves to play in the team, he’ll play in the team, but until then he’ll keep working at his game. At this point, with Schoeman and Dell absent, Sutherland has done really well at club level, has worked hard and shown a good appetite to improve. McCallum for me is a better option at loosehead than Darryl at the moment.”

Meanwhile, lock Lewis Carmichael has now resumed taking in training after being out with a head knock and should be available for selection. As Fraser McKenzie is out with a knee injury, Carmichael is likely to get his chance sooner rather than later.  

“The scan was relatively positive,” Cockerill said of McKenzie, who was carried off against Benetton. “He’s got some ligament damage on his MCL and we hope he’ll be playing within three months. It’s a lot better than first thought.”

Edinburgh (v Cheetahs at BT Murrayfield, tonight, kick-off 7.35pm, live on Free Sports): B Kinghorn; D Graham, J Johnstone, J Socino, D van der Merwe; S Hickey, H Pyrgos; R Sutherland, S McInally, W Nel, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, H Watson, V Mata. Subs: R Ford, M McCallum, S Berghan, L Hamilton, J Ritchie, S Kennedy, J van der Walt, C Dean.

Cheetahs: L Fouche; W Small Smith, B van Rensburg, N Lee, R Maxwane; T Schoeman, T Meyer; O Nce, J du Toit, A Coetzee, J Basson, J du Preez, N Jordaan, J Pokamela, S Malan. Subs:  J Dweba, C Marais, G van Vuuren, W Steenkamp, D Maartens, A Nonkontwana, S Venter, A Mgijima.

Referee: M Mitra (Italy).

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About Stuart Bathgate 1438 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.