Edinburgh v Dragons: five Scotland stars return to squad

Cockerill selects strong squad for PRO14 clash with Dragons

John Barclay
John Barclay will make his first Edinburgh appearance of the season against Dragons. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.

FIVE Scotland internationals will turn out for Edinburgh for the first time since the World Cup tomorrow night – John Barclay and Ben Toolis in the starting line-up against Dragons, and Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie on the bench. 

Duhan van der Merwe returns on the wing for the PRO14 cross-conference clash after being rested last week against Benetton, Pierre Schoeman is back in the starting line-up after being a substitute last week, and Simon Hickey is back at stand-off, making it five changes in all to the 15  that began the narrow defeat in Treviso.

Scotland winger Darcy Graham is listed as unavailable due to injury along with David Cherry, Murray Douglas, Fraser McKenzie, Nick Haining, Darryl Marfo, Hamish Watson, Chris Dean, Ruan Steenkamp and Nic Groom.

“While we were obviously disappointed at the Benetton loss, it works both ways,” head coach Richard Cockerill said. “We’re never as bad as we think, but we also certainly weren’t as good as we thought from the Scarlets game the previous week.

“We have had a good review this week and we have made sure there’s no misunderstanding around parts of our game where we need to get better. We want a good win tomorrow night and we’re looking forward to being back in front of our home support at BT Murrayfield. With five points, we would be starting to get ourselves into the play-off mix, if not cemented in the mix.”

Edinburgh lie fourth in Conference B after five games, three of which they have won. Dragons, who enjoyed a convincing home win over Glasgow last month, are fifth in Conference A. They last won at Murrayfield back in 2012, but are proving tougher competitors this season under head coach Dean Ryan, a former Scotland assistant.

“Edinburgh are a very good side,” Ryan said after naming a team which shows one change – the return of Jack Dixon at centre in place of Connor Edwards – from the side that lost at Leinster. “I know Richard (Cockerill) well and he has done a great job coming into the Guinness PRO14 and bringing some of his experiences. They are a powerful, well-organised, good-field-position side.

“Edinburgh were contenders in the Champions Cup last year and are starting to make a mark in the PRO14. It will be a challenge for us, but we are in a good space.

“Friday will be a test of us physically, because having spent years coaching against Richard, I know that Edinburgh will come with a power and field-position game and will wait for us to do something silly. We’ve got to work hard to be robust enough to stand up to that.”

Edinburgh (v Dragons at BT Murrayfield, Friday 7.35pm): Blair Kinghorn; Eroni Sau, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Duhan van der Merwe; Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Mike Willemse, Pietro Ceccarelli, Lewis Carmichael, Ben Toolis, John Barclay, Luke Crosbie, Magnus Bradbury. Subs: Cameron Fenton, Rory Sutherland, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Charlie Shiel, Jaco van der Walt, George Taylor.

Dragons: Jordan Williams; Owen Jenkins, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt; Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (captain); Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard, Leon Brown, Joe Davies, Matthew Screech, Huw Taylor, Taine Basham, Harrison Keddie. Subs:Ellis Shipp, Josh Reynolds, Lloyd Fairbrother, Max Williams, James Benjamin, Luke Baldwin, Arwel Robson, Tyler Morgan.

About Stuart Bathgate 1436 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.