MIKE BLAIR says he doesn’t know yet whether his two international hookers, Stuart McInally and Dave Cherry, will be available for Saturday’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final clash against Wasps at the DAM Health Stadium – but insists that he would have no qualms about Adam McBurney stepping into the breach if both those players are ruled out.
McInally injured his calf and Cherry hurt his arm during the team’s United Rugby Championship loss at home to Ulster on Saturday night.
“They’ll probably struggle a bit for this weekend, but we don’t have those [scan] results back,” said Blair. “I think Stuart is very unlikely. With Dave, you never know until you’ve had that scan how much of it is bruising and how much of it is something more permanent, so we’ll just have to wait and see with him.”
McBurney has started just four matches and made seven appearances off the bench since joining the club from Ulster last summer, but Blair praised the attitude of the Scots-qualified Northern Irishman in training, and stressed that the 25-year-old has been pushing McInally and Cherry hard for selection.
“Adam’s been absolutely brilliant for us, on-field and off-field,” said the coach. “He really drives standard and he’s incredibly competitive. He’ll be pissed-off when you don’t select him, then half an hour later he’ll be doing everything he can to help prepare the team and make them better.
“He’s a really good man and we have had proper conversations about involving him in the 23 already so it’s really great that he should be able to pick up an opportunity this week.”
If both McInally and Cherry are ruled out, McBurney’s understudy on Saturday will be one of the two other hookers currently listed in Edinburgh’s European squad, meaning a big day for either Patrick Harrison (a 19-year-old academy prospect who has played three games for Edinburgh at the tail-end of last year) or Cal Davies (a 29-year-old who plays for Watsonians in Super6 and has trained regularly with the pro team this season).
“You have to name a certain number of front-rowers [in your European squad] and they’ve got to be involved in the match-day 23 before you bring any emergency cover in, so we wouldn’t be able to bring anyone else in at the moment,” explained Blair.
Meanwhile. centre James Lang is also a doubt for Saturday after he picked up an injury in the first minute of the Ulster match.
“It was a knee-on-knee collision, so it just depends how long it takes to heal,” said Blair. “He’ll be in with the physio this afternoon and we should get a better indication of where he’s at after that.”
In the back three, there was a cautiously encouraging update on Darcy Graham’s status following his quad strain three weeks ago, but the outlook for Henry Immelman (knee) and Ramiro Moyano (bicep) is not so promising.
“Darcy’s touch and go at the moment – we’re just waiting to see how he gets through a bit of training but he’s not far off,” said Blair. “Ramiro and Henry, we’re unlikely to see them again this season.”
Other players currently listed as injured are props Luan de Bruin, Boan Venter and Angus Williams, second-rows Ben Toolis and Glen Young, and back-rows Nick Haining, Viliame Mata and Jamie Ritchie.
“We’ve got it pretty tough at the moment but I think other teams have had similar issues,” reflected Blair. “I remember Wasps at the start of the season had huge numbers out and they won two out of nine games but when they’ve had their players back available I think they’re on nine [wins] from 15, plus a draw, so you can see the impact it has.
“It is frustrating because we’ve probably got an international XV unavailable to us but it’s not something we can do too much about and, as I’ve said previously, it’s given guys opportunities to step up.
“I thought Ben Muncaster was fantastic off the bench again [versus Ulster]. Connor Boyle has been excellent when he’s played. So, it does give players opportunities.
“Gus Williams has been in with us, Harrison Courtney has been in with us, they are both Super6 players, so it has opened the door for guys to get game-time and show what they can do. Longer term, that’s going to be a good situation for us.”