MIKE BLAIR has made five changes to Edinburgh’s starting XV ahead of his final game in charge of the capital outfit against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium in round 18 of the URC tomorrow night (kick-off 7.35pm).
Tighthead prop Luan de Bruin gets the nod up front while Glen Young comes into the second-row in place of Marshall Sykes who misses out through injury.
In the backline, Cammy Hutchison starts at inside centre and Henry Pyrgos starts at scrum-half in what will be their final appearances for the club before being released in the summer, while Duhan van der Merwe comes in for the injured Damien Hoyland on the wing.
The match will also be Stuart McInally’s swan-song after he announced yesterday that he will retire from rugby when his contract finishes this November. He will start this game on the bench, as does fellow leaver Pierce Phillips.
“We were really pleased with last weekend’s performance against Ospreys,” said Blair. “Our physicality and decision-making was spot on from the first whistle – we’ll need that level of focus once again tomorrow night.
“Ulster are a team in form, who are particularly confident at home. It’s vital we match their physicality while putting down a marker in terms of the way we want to play, which is with freedom, while making smart decisions around the way we attack and defend.
“It will be a special occasion for the guys playing their last game for the club. It adds an extra level of motivation for our squad to put in a performance that properly recognises what those guys have all achieved here.”
Edinburgh (v Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium, Friday 7.35pm): E Boffelli; D Graham, J Lang, C Hutchison, D van der Merwe; B Kinghorn, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, D Cherry, L de Bruin, G Young, S Skinner, J Ritchie (captain), H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: S McInally, B Venter, W Nel, P Phillips, C Boyle, B Vellacott, M Bennett, N Sweeney.
Ulster: M Lowry; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S Moore, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, J Toomaga-Allen, A O’Connor (captain), K Treadwell, D McCann, N Timoney, D Vermeulen. Substitutes: T Stewart, C Reid, G Milasinovich, S Carter, H Sheridan, N Doak, L Marshall, C Gilroy.
Unavailable Edinburgh players: Luke Crosbie, Chris Dean, Grant Gilchrist, Wes Goosen, Nick Haining, Jamie Hodgson, Damien Hoyland, Henry Immelman, Ben Muncaster, Harry Paterson, Marshall Sykes.