PRO14 Round 1: Edinburgh team to face Ospreys

Richard Cockerill is not messing about.

For the opening game of the season against Ospreys down in Wales he’s picked a very strong side, including last year’s returning top performers Blair Kinghorn, Stuart McInally, Dougie Fife, Simon Berghan, Bill Mata and Hamish Watson. He’s also beefed it up with a lot of new signings including Simon Hickey, Matt Scott, Henry Pyrgos and Luke Hamilton.

The backline is probably the best one you could assemble – at least on paper – from the squad based on what we know without regard to form. How the players who played bigger roles last year (Chris Dean, James Johnstone) cope alongside other players jockeying for position with the newcomers (or returnees) pushed straight to the front will be key to how this team goes in attack over the course of the season, but for now the chance to see a Hickey/Scott/Bennett axis is quite exciting. Henry Pyrgos was a figure of some frustration on these pages in the latter stages of his Glasgow career but hopefully he can provide a bit of stability and leadership to an unfamiliar midfield – and not too many duff box-kicks.

Up front there is a debut for the hefty Pierre Schoeman. While the question for the backs is around depth, in the pack the question is how do you get them all playing? Current international first choice Allan Dell is on the bench, but Rory Sutherland and Darryl Marfo will be waiting in the wings for game time. No sign yet of WP Nel who is on another comeback season, with the last one not quite taking, but having him fully firing again would be a blessing all round for Edinburgh and Scotland. And much maligned though he is at times, it’s good to see Ross Ford back fit. With Rambo McInally set to spend plenty time with Scotland, the previously durable Ford could get close to his 200th Edinburgh appearance this season.

The backrow blend is quite nice too with heft or agility available as ball-carrying options at 6 and 8 respectively alongside the Tasmanian Pinball that is Hamish Watson.

The Ospreys also have a full team out including new signing George North and a wealth of experience in the back 5. Former B&I Lions and Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones doesn’t even get a look in for the armband with Justin Tipuric leading the home side. Any sort of result for the visitors will be hard fought

You can also bet that if this – what looks like mostly first choice – Edinburgh side doesn’t put in the required effort there are plenty waiting in the wings who also want to be a part of the Edinburgh revolution. Test players coasting until the World Cup at the end of the season won’t be allowed, and Edinburgh’s mission to kick on from a promising season starts tomorrow.

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Luke Price, 9 Aled Davies; 1 Nicky Smith, 2 Scott Otten, 3 Tom Botha, 4 Bradley Davies, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Justin Tipuric (Capt), 8 James King.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Alex Jeffries, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Joe Thomas

Edinburgh: 15. Blair Kinghorn, 14. Dougie Fife, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. Matt Scott, 11. Duhan van der Merwe, 10. Simon Hickey, 9. Henry Pyrgos; 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. Stuart McInally (capt), 3. Simon Berghan, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Luke Hamilton*, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Bill Mata.
Replacements: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Allan Dell, 18. Murray McCallum, 19. Fraser McKenzie, 20. Jamie Ritchie, 21. Sean Kennedy, 22. Jaco van der Walt, 23. James Johnstone.

Friday 31st August, Liberty Stadium, 7.35pm. Coverage live on Premier Sports

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13 comments on “PRO14 Round 1: Edinburgh team to face Ospreys

  1. Busy Little Bee on

    Good on paper but worth nothing that Ospreys are 6 point favorite with the local bookie, which implies they are the better team even allowing for home field advantage. Edinburgh will do well to match last season’s excellent results.

    Once Barclay is back and it’s a back row of Watson-Mata-Barclay that is better than the test team’s back row. Hopefully Kinghorn kicks on and starts to establish himself up there with the likes of G.Hastings, Armstrong, Hogg, Parks and Calder as the very best to pull on the shirt in the last quarter century.

    Reply
    • JP on

      He’s a couple of lions tours and about a decade away from being close to that, other than Parks which I assume is tongue in cheek. Let the boy play, enough with the build up and expectation.

      Reply
  2. Tonnie's Advisor on

    Excellent team to kick off the season. Pleased to see Scott and Bennett get a chance together. They could well prove to be the back up centre pairing ot Dunbar & Jones for the RWC.

    Bench looks stacked as well.

    When you look at the full squad and there are some big names not in this 23.
    Bradbury
    Barclay
    Carmichael
    Crosbie
    Marfo
    Nel

    Fowles
    Dean
    Hoyland

    Looking good

    Reply
    • Billy on

      Scott and Bennett could be the first choice centre pairing for the RWC , Dunbar and Jones are not certs.
      I was going with you in your list of big names until I came to Fowles , hopefully he is now 4th choice at Edinburgh and we wont see too much of him.

      Reply
      • Toonie's Advisor on

        Completely agree, but he is an international scrum half so deserves to be in consideration. Not been good enough to merit an international consideration but you can’t take away the fact he was there.

    • Calan on

      My worry is at 9. If Henry releases quick ball then we’re more than capable of getting, or at least competing, for a result. If the balls slow then the line speed of the Osprey’s will make it extremely difficult for Edinburgh to get anything from this game.

      Reply
  3. George Gray on

    Very good team. Edinburgh have the forwards to create a platform for that excellent midfield. Agreed that Pyrgos could be the key. He is a class player and it wasn’t long ago he was being talked about as a replacement for Laidlaw at National level. His confidence dipped when Price took his chance but the move to Edinburgh might just galvanize him. A bit more confident about the chances of Edinburgh this season than my own team, the Warriors. Time will tell.

    Reply
    • FF on

      I like Pyrgos but think he is not quite good enough to stamp his mark at test level. The main reason people wanted him elevated to the starting position for Scotland is a section of fans’ irrational hatred of Laidlaw.

      Reply
      • Toby on

        Pyrgos will not be Scotland’s scrum half but will improve at Edinburgh.Bennett reinventing himself at Edinburgh, Pyrgos will improve. I am less confident that the clear out at Scotstoun will remedy the performance.We may need to be patient and hope that Rennie has grasped the nettle.

  4. Neil on

    Rennie skills lie in developing talent in my opinion over recruitment. Look what he accomplished with Horne, Hastings and fagerson

    Reply

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