EDINBURGH and Scotland captain Stuart McInally will sit out the first two rounds of European action before making his post-World-Cup return to play, Richard Cockerill has revealed.
Like Jonny Gray at Glasgow, McInally has been deemed to need extra rest not only following his involvement in Japan, but also because of the length and attritional nature of this season, which will extend all the way to Scotland’s tour to South Africa and New Zealand next summer. Cockerill also revealed that Edinburgh tighthead WP Nel will be sidelined for nearly as long as his front-row colleague, but that the rest of his squad’s Scotland players should all be available for selection shortly.
“McInally won’t be available for the first two rounds and Nel won’t be available for the first round,” the head coach Richard Cockerill said earlier today (Friday) after naming his team for tomorrow evening’s PRO14 match against Benetton in Treviso. “It was a decision from Gregor [Townsend, the Scotland coach] around rest times – the SRU stipulated what rest periods the players were required to have. We’ll manage the other players individually and they’ll come back in over the next few weeks.
“[Simon] Berghan and [Ben] Toolis were available last week and this week, but we’ve had discussions and I’ve chosen to give them a bit more time,” Cockerill added. “Next week, [Grant] Gilchrist, [Jamie] Ritchie, [John] Barclay and [Darcy] Graham will come back to training.
“We’ll just manage them individually and make sure that when they’re back, they’re ready to commit fully. They’ve had a long time away from home and emotionally as well as physically, that’s pretty draining. I’ve experienced that myself.”
Magnus Bradbury, Blair Kinghorn and Henry Pyrgos all played in Edinburgh’s win against Scarlets last week in their first outings since the World Cup, with Bradbury beginning the game on the bench and the other two starting. All three are in the starting line-up this time, while Fijian forward Bill Mata comes on to the bench in his first appearance since representing his country in Japan.
Cockerill is managing his non-international players carefully too as Edinburgh embark on a long stretch of games without a break, with loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman dropped to the bench for the Benetton game and last week’s hat-trick hero Duhan van der Merwe omitted altogether. “We’ve now got 12 games on the bounce – 13 on the bounce if you take it back to last weekend,” he continued. “The guys can’t play in every game.
“Last year we were forced a little bit because of injuries around the number of games that guys played. World Cup year is always very difficult for guys who have been away with their national teams.
“But it’s a good team we’ve picked. Damien Hoyland [who takes Van der Merwe’s No 11 jersey] has been in really good form. Duhan will come back into the squad for next week, he’ll be hungry for that, and the same with Schoeman.
“Benetton have been a different team over the past two or three years. We know they’ll be difficult opposition and they’ll also be looking to integrate players back into their team.We need to go there and put a performance in if we want to take the points.
“Then we’ll rotate and bring some more international guys back in next week against the Dragons, and then we’re into Europe. So it’s a tough period coming up with the European games, a double-header with Wasps, and also Munster away.
“We just need to keep everyone fresh. Making guys feel a little bit vulnerable for their spot has worked well for us in the early part of the season. The guys are really motivated. Across the whole team now, there is credible competition for every position.”