SEVEN members of Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad have been included in the Edinburgh matchday 23 for tomorrow’s PRO14 match against Zebre, but Rory Sutherland and Jamie Ritchie are among those who miss out on the game in Parma because of injury.
An update on the injured players is expected later today, but Ritchie in particular is giving concern with the game against England at Twickenham now just two weeks away. The blindside flanker has been sidelined with concussion, while Sutherland played around 55 minutes against Glasgow last week without apparent ill effect.
Ben Toolis – omitted from Townsend’s squad of 35 for the Six Nations – is again missing from the Edinburgh squad, having struggled to shake off a toe injury. Wingers Duhan van der Merwe and Darcy Graham are also still injured and unavailable respectively.
The seven national squad members in the 23 are: Blair Kinghorn, Jaco van der Walt, Dave Cherry, WP Nel, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist and Hamish Watson.
Richard Cockerill has made five changes to his starting line-up from the 23-22 loss to the Warriors, three in the pack and two in the backs. Winger Jack Blain, a late withdrawal from last week’s narrow defeat by Glasgow, is restored to the starting line-up, while Henry Pyrgos also begins at scrum-half after being a substitute in the defeat at Scotstoun.
Up front, Pierre Schoeman takes over at loosehead from Sutherland and WP Nel is at tighthead instead of Simon Berghan. The other alteration to the pack is in the back row, where Luke Crosbie comes in for Magnus Bradbury.
On the bench, Charlie Shiel is back-up scrum-half, while Nic Groom is dropped. Sam Grahamslaw is reserve loosehead, and centre George Taylor is also among the substitutes – his first time in the squad since sustaining a facial injury against the Scarlets in November.
“This is obviously a very important match for us and our efforts to climb the table at the back-end of the season,” Cockerill said. “We were disappointed to lose by the narrowest of margins away against Glasgow last time out and have once again picked a strong side that we believe can go out there and get the win we need.
“Like us, we’re anticipating Zebre will have their international players available to them before the Six Nations gets underway, so we’re expecting a tough match between two good sides.”
The match in Italy will be the last for either pro team before the Six Nations begins. Edinburgh’s next scheduled game is on Friday 12, away to the Dragons, while Glasgow currently have no fixtures scheduled.
Edinburgh (v Zebre at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Saturday @ 1.00pm): B Kinghorn; J Blain, M Bennett, C Dean, E Sau; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, D Cherry, W Nel, J Hodgson, G Gilchrist, L Crosbie, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: M Willemse, S Grahamslaw, S Berghan, N Haining, M Bradbury, C Shiel, N Chamberlain, G Taylor.