MAGNUS BRADBURY will make his first Edinburgh appearance since dislocating his shoulder against Toulon last October as part of the squad which will take on the Dragons at Murrayfield on Friday night. The 23-year-old’s return to fitness is a timely boost for both club and country given the number of back-rowers who are currently out of action.
“Magnus has worked hard to get back, he’ll get good minutes at the weekend and we’ll see if Scotland come calling for him,” said Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill.
However, it was not all good news at Cockerill’s Monday press briefing, with the coach revealing that Lewis Carmichael faces a lengthy period in rehab recovering from a ruptured ACL, while Hamish Watson will not return from the hand injury he sustained three weeks ago in time to play for Scotland against France on 23rd February, although he could be available for the final two matches of this year’s Six Nations campaign.
“Lewis got back to playing [after a concussion] then slipped at training and tore his ACL,” he said. “That happened three or four weeks ago. He has had surgery. His season is finished.
“[Hamish] is still recovering,” Cockerill added. “It’s just a matter of time, probably two or three weeks yet. He will certainly miss France, which is in two weeks’ time. They may get him in for the last two, we will see. We might get him to play for us in the last two. The back-row injuries are starting to mount up for Scotland aren’t they?”
Meanwhile, Cockerill was more cautious in his estimation of John Barclay’s likely comeback date than the player himself was in a Sunday Times interview eight days ago, when he said he was targeting Edinburgh’s game against Leinster on 22nd March.
“That is a little optimistic, but we will see,” said the coach. “As soon as he is fit and ready to go he will come back into the squad. At this point, as he has just started running yesterday, it is hard to say exact dates. He is making progress. He is heading in the right direction, but we don’t have an exact date as to when he will be back.”
Cockerill added that Luke Hamilton, another international back-row, is continuing to struggle with concussion symptoms, as is centre Matt Scott. Hamilton has been out since mid-December, while Scott has been side-lined since October.
“It is a very on-topic injury just now and we don’t know enough about it, so if guys are still having a little bit of symptoms round headaches you need to measure what is wrong,” said Cockerill.
Centre Mark Bennett is another long-term absentee – with a ruptured hamstring – who is closing in on a return to action, although it won’t be this week. ‘He’s back on the training field and could potentially return against Treviso,” said Cockerill.
Enter the Dragons
Turning his attention to the task immediately at hand, Cockerill expects to have second-row Ben Toolis and hooker Dave Cherry released back from the Scotland camp for Friday night’s home match against the Dragons, and he is generally pretty positive about how his match-day squad is going to shape up without his front-line internationalists – Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Allan Dell, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie and Blair Kinghorn – who will be given the weekend off.
“Viliame Mata is available, Magnus will come into the 23 so that adds strength to us and Luke Crosbie had a broken jaw [in November] which was not helpful [but is available now],” he said. “The back five has been an issue for us in those international periods – last time we played the Dragons it was Ally Miller and Lewis Wynne – so there is change in that forward pack. We are looking stronger from the autumn.”
After a disappointing loss away to the Southern Kings in their last outing at the end of January, Cockerill knows that his side cannot afford many more off days in the race to make the Guinness PRO14 play-offs this season. Edinburgh are currently third in Conference B on 36 points, only one point behind second placed Benetton, but with both Ulster and Scarlets breathing down their neck on 35 points each.
“I don’t think we took the Kings for granted,” said Cockerill. “We just made a mess of it. I think these three games – against Dragons and Blues at home and then Benetton away – are pivotal for us. Everyone is very close. We had an opportunity at Kings to get one game’s distance between us and other teams and we didn’t take it.
“We can’t afford to slip up. We still have Ulster and Scarlets to play. We also have Leinster and Glasgow so there are some tough games to come.
“This weekend we’ll be pretty strong. Cardiff, who knows? Because of what Scotland need. Then we go to Italy to play Benetton in a fallow week, but the attrition rate at the moment is hard. It is a very important three weeks for us.”