Hardie set to make Edinburgh comeback on Friday

Richard Cockerill also expects to have new cap Murray McCallum at his disposal

John Hardie is in line to make his playing comeback for Edinburgh on Saturday
John Hardie is in line to make his playing comeback for Edinburgh on Saturday after serving a three month suspension for alleged cocaine use. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

JOHN HARDIE is expected to make his comeback for Edinburgh against Leinster on Friday night at Myreside after completing a three-month SRU imposed suspension for alleged cocaine use.

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill had hoped that the New Zealand-born flanker, who has been capped 16 times for Scotland, would get some decent game time for Hawick in the BT Premiership before returning to the pro team fold, but his first scheduled match for the Borders outfit was postponed due to a frozen pitch, and he then lasted less than 15 minutes before having to retire with a burst lip 10 days ago.

“John is with us. He basically smashed his lip up but he’s good to go and hopefully he’ll be involved on Friday,” said Cockerill.

The coach went on to explain that he expects to be short of numbers in the back-row this weekend due to Hamish Watson and Cornell du Preez being away with the Scotland squad, while he anticipates that either Viliame Mata or Magnus Bradbury will have to shift forward to the second-row to cover a shortage in that position after Callum Hunter-Hill injured his knee whilst playing for Newcastle Falcons during a two-week loan to the Premiership club at the end of last month.

“He [Hardie] is an experienced player and he’s very tough and physical, so if he is available and fit – which he is – it would be sensible to get him back playing,” reasoned Cockerill.

Simon Berghan is also back after serving a six-week suspension for stamping on Glasgow Warriors hooker Fraser Brown just before Christmas, but is set to slip straight into the Scotland set-up, with Cockerill hoping that Murray McCallum – who made his Scotland debut against Wales on Saturday – will be released down to play for the capital outfit on Friday night.

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“Bergy [Berghan] is fresh, he hasn’t played since Glasgow at home so he has had a good rest and then a good training spell and he could be straight into the Test arena so he is a lucky boy,” said Cockerill.

“I would like to think we will have one of Murray or Bergy back for Friday, I’d think it will be Murray with his lesser experience.”

“I think that Bergy has done well for us this season to be fair, he is durable and when he applies himself and concentrates the whole time then he can be a handful. Sometimes when he doesn’t concentrate he gets into a bit of bother.”

“Certainly, this year he has worked very hard. We have to push him and help him along the way, but Nick Lumley has worked hard with him S&C wise and on set-piece. He is a good athlete, he is slowly learning more about set-piece and getting better.”

“He is a lovely man which is great when you are off the field, but not when you are on it always. He has a lot of potential and he has scrummaged well this year, but as we saw against the All Blacks [in November]: he came off the bench, didn’t concentrate, lost a scrum and was penalised. That can cost you games.”

“He is certainly good enough for the Test arena, it is just whether he applies himself.”

Meanwhile, scrum-half Nathan Fowles returned to training with Edinburgh yesterday after being released by Scotland.

Prop Darryl Marfo also trained with the squad but Cockerill cautioned that his return to the field of play is not imminent.

“He is making progress, we hope that in three or four weeks he’ll be playing. He has had surgery to his back in the past and it has flared up a little bit, but hopefully in the next three or four weeks,” he explained.

Chris Dean, who was out for a month with a minor tear in his quad, is another player back in the mix.

“This block of four games is going to be crucial for us. We’ve got to knock some big teams over. We’re missing a few but we’re not hit as badly as they are,” said Cockerill.

“It will be a test of us mentally. We’re missing a few senior guys with the Test team but we’ve played pretty well across the squad this year, and if we can survive from a set-piece points of view – our scrum has been under a bit of pressure with guys missing across the board – then why now?”

About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.