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