Some Edinburgh fans may still be thinking of the “coulda, shoulda” moments of the semi-final v Ulster, but only four weeks since they got Madigan-ed out of the final, both of Scotland’s professional sides will commence their ‘Pro Somewhere-Between 12-16’ 2020/21 season fixtures tomorrow. (Sat 3rd October)
Glasgow face a trip to Galway to play Connacht on the opening day – for quite remarkably the fourth time in five years – and head coach Danny Wilson has picked an experienced side, boasting 17 full internationalists in the match-day 23.
One man yet to gain full honours, Oli Kebble, starts at loosehead to make his 50th appearance for the Warriors, while we can expect to see George Turner come off the bench at some stage to also represent the Warriors for a 50th time.
Rob Harley and Scott Cummings form the engine room, with Richie Gray on the bench as cover, while co-captain Ryan Wilson plays at blindside, former captain Chris Fusaro, openside and Matt Fagerson no:8 to make up the back-row. New signing Fotu Lokotui can expect to replace of one of them at some stage of the match to make his debut.
The now well established pairing of Adam Hastings and Ali Price start as half-backs, with the brothers Horne their socially distanced cover, Huw Jones continues his fledgling career as a full-back, and a mix of youth and experience, in Robbie Nairn and Tommy Seymour respectively.
Missing from the squad due to possible exposure to Covi-19 are Zander Fagerson and Tom Gordon, and the same issue has occurred over in the east to rule Jamie Ritchie out of Edinburgh’s home game against an Ospreys side led by Justin Tipuric.
Duhan van der Merwe will also miss out due to a shoulder problem, but Richard Cockerill confirmed that he is due to start against Munster next week. Ritchie’s isolation period ends during the week as well, so he should return to training and come into contention should he return negative test results.
Jamie Bhatti takes a spot on the bench behind Pierre Schoeman with Rory Sutherland ruled out, and we may not get to see a direct Tips v The Mish breakdown deathmatch, as Luke Crosbie is given a chance to shine at openside. He’s joined in the back-row by Scotland caps Magnus Bradbury and Nick Haining at 6 and 8 respectively.
With a 100% chance of rain forecast, Cockers will be looking for their physicality to keep Edinburgh on the front-foot and take the pressure of young scrum-half Charlie Shiel, starting regardless of injuries to the experienced pairing of Henry Pyrgos and Nic Groom.
Of Shiel, Cockerill said;
“He’s been getting good game time. Got the start against Bordeaux and played very, very well, so the thought process was that he would have started this game regardless of the other two being fit. He’s clearly got a lot of ability and he’s maturing game by game, so regardless of circumstances he would have started anyway. He’s just got to keep doing good things and being consistent.
“I’m very happy with him. He just needs to keep doing his basics well because his instinct is to play naturally, and there will be opportunities for him to show his flair, but there is 100 percent chance of rain tomorrow night so he needs to get his basics done well to keep the team ticking and playing in the right areas and playing good rugby.”
The crafty Jaco van der Walt will be alongside Shiel to guide him through and dictate play ahead of a backs unit filled with international 7s experience.
Chirs Dean and Olympic silver medallist Mark Bennet make the centre pairing, and Darcy Graham and Jamie Farndale play on the wings, with Damien Hoyland completing the outside backs.
“We need to make sure we get our basic things right, the weather conditions are gonna be a factor. It’s a game for winning against the weather conditions. The good thing is that before lockdown we played the conditions well, we won all our games when it was wet and windy and we’ve got to produce our best wet-weather game and just get the result.”
Glasgow Warriors: 15. Huw Jones, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Nick Grigg,
12. Stafford McDowall, 11. Robbie Nairn, 10. Adam Hastings, 9. Ali Price ;
1. Oli Kebble*, 2. Fraser Brown (c), 3. D’arcy Rae, 4. Rob Harley,
5. Scott Cummings 6. Ryan Wilson 7. Chris Fusaro 8. Matt Fagerson
Replacements: 16. George Turner*, 17. Aki Seiuli, 18. Enrique Pieretto,
19. Richie Gray, 20. Fotu Lokotui, 21. George Horne, 22. Peter Horne
23. Ratu Tagive (*making 50th appearance)
Edinburgh Rugby: 15. Damien Hoyland, 14. Darcy Graham,
13. Mark Bennett, 12. Chris Dean, 11. Jame Farndale, 10. Jaco van der Walt,
9. Charlie Shiel ; 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. Stuart McInally, 3. Simon Berghan,
4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 7. Luke Crosbie,
8. Nick Haining
Replacements: 16. David Cherry, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. WP Nel,
19. Andrew Davidson 20. Hamish Watson 21. Dan Nutton
22. Nathan Chamberlain 23. George Taylor