TEN internationals return to the Edinburgh squad for tomorrow night’s Champions Cup match against Newcastle Falcons, with the starting line-up for the Pool Five game showing 13 changes from the one that lost to Munster in the PRO14 last Friday. Duhan van der Merwe and Jaco van der Walt, who wear the 11 and 10 jerseys respectively, are the only players retained from that line-up.
The changes start at the back, where Blair Kinghorn comes in at 15. Stuart McInally resumes the captaincy at hooker and has Pierre Schoeman and Willem Nel either side of him in the front row.
Ben Toolis and Darcy Graham, both of whom played against the Dragons before being rested for last Friday’s game in Munster, are also back in the starting line-up at lock and right-wing respectively. The back row features Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Bill Mata, who leads the competition stats for the most carries of any player – 42 – after the first two pool games.
Richard Cockerill said earlier in the week that at their strongest his team are a match for any side in Europe, so this game will be a chance to put that assertion to the test. A couple of players who would contend for places are still on the injury list – notably John Barclay, Magnus Bradbury and Matt Scott – but this is arguably the best line-up that the head coach could select from those players available to him.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 12)
The scale of the changes was expected, and Van der Merwe was a certainty to keep his place given the physical threat he poses. The one slight surprise is the decision to go with Van der Walt at stand-off instead of Simon Hickey, but it is not the first time in recent months that the South African has been preferred to the New Zealander.
Cockerill’s team are second in the pool with six points, two behind Newcastle. The Falcons, who won their first two pool games, include Scotland back Chris Harris at outside centre, the uncapped national squad member Gary Graham at openside, and lock Gary Young from Jedburgh, but are without Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti.
Edinburgh (v Newcastle Falcons at BT Murrayfield, Friday 7,45pm, live on BT Sport): Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, James Johnstone, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Bill Mata. Subs: David Cherry, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Callum Hunter-Hill, Luke Hamilton, Nathan Fowles, Simon Hickey, Juan Pablo Socino.
Newcastle Falcons: Alex Tait; Tom Arscott, Chris Harris, Pedro Bettencourt, Adam Radwan; Brett Connon, Tane Takulua; Adam Brocklebank, George McGuigan, David Wilson, Tex Cavubati, Glen Young, Ryan Burrows, Gary Graham, Callum Chick. Subs: Santi Socino, Trevor Davison, Sami Mavinga, Calum Green, Simon Uzokwe, Sam Stuart, Toby Flood, Johnny Williams.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy).