GRANT Gilchrist will go straight back into Edinburgh’s starting line-up to face Glasgow tomorrow night after being out for nearly three months with a groin injury. The second row, whose regular partner Ben Toolis has been ruled out with an ankle injury, is one of seven changes made by Richard Cockerill from the side that began last week’s 10-7 win over the Warriors.
Andrew Davidson also returns at lock, having missed the last two games with a similar injury to Toolis’s, while Jamie Hodgson drops down to the bench after starting with Toolis in the match at Murrayfield. The other two changes in the pack are in the front row, where the two replacement props from last week, Rory Sutherland and Simon Berghan, play from the start this time instead of Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel. If and when he comes off the bench, Nel will be making his 150th appearance.
Two of the three changes in the back division are on the wings, where Eroni Sau is on the right in place of Darcy Graham and Jack Blain takes over on the left from Duhan van der Merwe. Graham is out because of personal reasons, while Van der Merwe has a knee injury. Like Toolis, Van der Merwe should be back next week to face Sale Sharks in the Champions Cup.
The seventh and potentially most significant alteration is at scrum-half, where Nic Groom starts instead of Henry Pyrgos. Edinburgh will lift the 1872 Cup for the fourth successive season if they win at Scotstoun tonight, and Cockerill, aiming for a smoother, speedier performance from his team, believes that Groom is best placed to spark that improvement.
“With Nic Groom we wanted to approach the game slightly differently, so he starts,” Cockerill said. “We just want a bit more continuity and speed of ball. I felt Henry didn’t give us that last
week, so we’ve got good depth in our squad and Nic comes in and gives us that. They’re slightly different 9s, and I want a 9 who is quick to the ball and I want us playing on top of teams when we get the opportunity.
“I thought we left some opportunities out there at the weekend. We’ve got a good squad and people are competing for their spots. That’s the reason for selection.
“We don’t try to play a turgid game. We actually try to play. We score tries. We are an expansive team as and when we have the opportunity.”
Groom’s scampering around the base of the ruck is more suited to an expansive game plan than Pyrgos’s more measured approach, but Cockerill has certainly not singled out his co-captain for blame. There were collective failings in the Edinburgh ranks last week, most notably in the lineout, where Richie Gray ruled the roost on his return for Glasgow. And as the coach saw it, there was an individual failing by referee Sam Grove-White, who failed to send any Warriors player to the sinbin despite repeat offending in the scrum.
“We had eight penalties against Glasgow at the scrum,” the coach continued. “They had a final warning after the third one – but there were no consequences from that. That’s been fed back and dealt with.
“If you are five metres out and it’s your scrum and you can push them backwards and they stand up or wheel round illegally and keep doing that, what is the alternative but to send a player to the bin? That’s the game.
“I’m sure Glasgow will be a far tougher prospect at the scrum this weekend. They’ll have been practising scrummaging while we’ve been practising lineouts.”
Referee Mike Adamson takes over in the middle from the less experienced Grove-White at Scotstoun, and Cockerill suggested that could make a difference. “Mike is a very good referee. He’s just been given his first international game, and that’s credit to him for the work he has put in over the last number of years.
“It was a turgid affair last time as both sides cancelled each other out for much of the match,” Cockerill added. “We were happy to get the win and with certain elements of our game – and will certainly look to exert pressure in those areas again – but there’s a lot we need to improve on if we’re going to come away from Glasgow with the points.
“We’ve picked a good side and it’s good to add Gilko back into that mix, because he adds a lot of experience and quality. We’ve made a few adjustments, offered opportunities to a couple of others in the squad and challenged them to be a point of difference for us this week.”
Edinburgh (v Glasgow at Scotstoun, Friday 7.35pm): B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, C Dean, J Blain; J van der Walt, N Groom; R Sutherland, S McInally, S Berghan, A Davidson, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: D Cherry, P Schoeman, W Nel, J Hodgson, M Bradbury, H Pyrgos, N Chamberlain, J Johnstone.