The away win against Cardiff was an unlikely but massively welcome result, but now Richard Cockerill will be introduced to the curious spectacle of an Edinburgh Rugby home game. Initially, at least, he will be spared the cavernous echo chamber that is Murrayfield on a Friday night for the continuing experiment at Myreside.
The Watsonians ground had its critics as a venue for pro rugby last season and Edinburgh say they have been working hard on improving the match day experience. There are new toilet facilities including disabled access, the big screens have been changed and there will be better bars and food – in a new partnership with the Signature Pubs group, there is a new supporters marquee, and they are also responsible for “A fine rump” plastered across the back of the shorts.
It would be nice if this all worked, and alongside the team performances, the days of a damp chicken burger in an empty East stand at BTM are in the past. Even if we as fans can be stuck in the past, Cockerill doesn’t need to be and he clearly won’t want his team to be, with a blank slate from when he took over.
One bit of reminiscing he did encourage was apparently at half time against Cardiff: “I said to them at half-time, we’ve been to darker places and done tougher things in pre-season so don’t be afraid to push yourselves a bit harder.”
Which begs the question – what can be darker than the heart of Cardiff on a Friday night?
The first move forward was handing Magnus Bradbury the captaincy. He’ll lead the team at home against the Dragons, who bring a team north including former Leinster/SA man Zane Kirchner, former Edinburgh man Sam Beard and a man still a legend to hairstylists everywhere: Gavin Henson.
Elsewhere, Cockerill’s been careful with his team. Very similar to last week but dripfeeding some bigger names back in alongside the side that fronted up admirably in Cardiff.
Italian prop Michele Rizzo swaps with Darryl Marfo at loosehead and Ben Toolis and Hamish Watson get their first starts of the season. John Hardie was the league’s joint top tackler last weekend with 22 and it’s great for Edinburgh that he can be rested with no drop in quality at openside. Quite who Toony will pick if they are both in form going into November is anyone’s guess.
Blair Kinghorn stays at fullback with the debut (daybooo) of Robbie Fruean in the centre the one most likely to excite Edinburgh fans. That also means Glenn Bryce drops out of the 23 with Junior Rasolea on the bench.
No place this time for any of the players who (I’m calling it now) will be the Cockerill 3 – James Johnstone, Dougie Fife and Jamie Farndale. Cockerill told the Scotsman this week he is keen to hang on to them, even once Sevens season kicks off. A tug of love over their futures is no doubt underway in the bowels of Murrayfield with John Dalziell probably the loser. Finding wingers who can defend is a tricky job, so three who’ve worked with his defence coach for three years is bound to be enticing for Edinburgh’s new chief.
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn, Damien Hoyland, Chris Dean, Robbie Fruean, Jason Harries, Duncan Weir, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Michele Rizzo, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury (capt).
Replacements: Ross Ford, Darryl Marfo, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie, Cornell du Preez, Nathan Fowles, Jason Tovey, Junior Rasolea.
Dragons: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Tyler Morgan 12, Sam Beard, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Charlie Davies; 1 Brok Harris, 2 Elliot Dee, 3 Leon Brown, 4 Rynard Landman, 5 Cory Hill (capt), 6 James Thomas, 7 James Benjamin, 8 Harrison Keddie.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, Max Williams, Owain Leonard, Angus O’Brien, Adam Hughes.
Friday 8th September, coverage live on BBC Alba, kick off 7.35pm.