EDINBURGH coach Richard Cockerill has said that settling in a permanent home will be a significant step forward for his team, whose PRO14 match against Leinster tonight could be their last appearance at Myreside. Cockerill insisted that preparing his squad to perform at their best was more important to him than debating where the best venue for them was, but his words at least suggested that he saw the virtue of leaving the Watsonians ground in favour of a proposed 7,000-seat stadium within Murrayfield.
“For me, we just need a permanent home we can make our own and be viable to play at,” he said after naming his squad for the Conference B game. “The details around what we’re going to do is not for me to discuss – we’ll concentrate on getting the best team we can on the field and playing as well as we can.
“The sooner we get a permanent home where we can set our roots down and start to make it stronger, the better for everyone. Where we play is not that important for us.
“Myreside, I’m happy there; there are issues around that at times. I’m happy at Murrayfield as well. Give me a good pitch to play on and I’m happy, I’m not fussed.
“We’ve made positive strides. We’re improving as a club on and off the field. If we can get some roots down and have a permanent stadium in the near future, we can start to build this club as Glasgow have.”
This is Edinburgh’s first complete season at Myreside after they played a number of matches there as a trial last season. Their agreement with George Watson’s College still has two years to run, but it is understood that it contains a provision for an annual review.
Despite Scotland call-ups and an injury list that remains too lengthy for comfort, the Edinburgh coach has declared himself reasonably happy with the team he has selected to face second-placed Leinster. Blair Kinghorn’s first-time selection for Scotland has forced Cockerill to recast the back three, where Darcy Graham is on the right wing and Dougie Fife at full-back. But Murray McCallum returns at tighthead after making his international debut off the bench in Cardiff, Mark Bennett starts at centre, and the back-row options look particularly strong, with Magnus Bradbury and John Hardie both ready to come off the bench.
“Pretty pleased,” was Cockerill’s verdict. “We’ve had a bit of disruption with guys like Murray McCallum not coming back until today, Mark Bennett the same, but that’s just the international window. We have only two second rows after Callum Hunter-Hill’s injury playing for Newcastle, but by and large we’re pretty happy with the squad.
“We’ll have a few key guys missing though they [Leinster] will have a lot of guys missing. There is clearly an opportunity there, notwithstanding that they have a very strong, experienced squad.
“If we have ambitions to push into that top three and keep Treviso at bay and at least qualify for that European play-off if we cannot get third, then we need to be knocking some big teams off. In the next few weeks we have Leinster, Ulster, Dragons – difficult away from home – and Munster, so those four games are going to be very important if we’re to have any ambition of breaking into that top three, which will be tough.”
Edinburgh (v Leinster at Myreside, tonight [Friday] 7.35pm): D Fife; D Graham, M Bennett, C Dean, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Fowles; J Lay, C Fenton, M McCallum, F McKenzie, L Carmichael, L Crosbie, J Ritchie, V Mata. Substitutes: N Cochrane, R Sutherland, M Shields, M Bradbury, J Hardie, S Hidalgo-Clyne, J Rasolea, G Bryce.
Leinster: D Kearney; F McFadden, R O’Loughlin, N Reid, B Daly; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; P Dooley, R Strauss, M Bent, R Molony, S Fardy, J Murphy, W Conners, M Deegan. Substitutes: B Byrne, E Byrne, O Heffernan, M Kearney, P Timmins, L McGrath, C Frawley, A Byrne.