Kevin Millar takes a look at where Scotland’s forwards stand with around 20 Test matches remaining before the Rugby World Cup in France.
Some of Edinburgh’s young players will need to step up against Munster on Saturday, according to Head Coach Richard Cockerill.
Bill Mata has been joined on the treatment table by back-row mates Magnus Bradbury and Luke Crosbie, while Scotland backs Henry Pyrgos and Blair Kinghorn are still out.
Duhan van der Merwe and Jamie Ritchie, the latter after following COVID protocols, are both set to return to the starting line-up, but Cockerill’s squad will be stretched in Limerick on Saturday night.
The Edinburgh coach is, though, confident in his young players.
“They’re an integral part of training, in every meeting and they’re learning the lessons from senior guys about what to do and what not to do,” he said on a Zoom call earlier today.
“They’ll step up and get opportunities and that’s really the exciting part. It’s just making sure we develop them and bring them into play and try to win at the same time, or at least be competitive so that they’re learning in a positive environment.
“There are some good age-grade lads in our group who will get opportunities and they’re going to get the chance to play.”
Saturday’s match – thrown into some doubt by a Munster player testing positive for COVID-19 – will be the last time for a long while that Cockerill will be able to call upon his international contingent.
He knows how tough the next period of games will be for his side.
“The next eight weeks is going to tough for all sorts of reasons but we just have to get on with it.
“If we go and win at Thomond at the weekend it’ll turn the momentum and if we win the next seven or eight games without most of our team then the whole world looks different.
The Englishman knows his side have made life difficult for themselves after defeat at home to Ospreys in their season opener, with Thomond Park traditionally a tough place to visit.
“Thomond Park’s not the easiest place to take the points. Of all the places after not getting it right against Ospreys at home, you’ve got to try and turn it round at Thomond against Munster.
“We don’t make life easy for ourselves.
“We’ve got to go there and put in a performance that’s worthy of us as a team. If we get our performance and mentality right, there’s no reason why we can’t push them very hard and be in the game to try to win it.
“We still have some guys missing but we have a good side and we’ve got to front up.
“We need positives from the game, hopefully the points, but we need to start play better in key moments. Munster have a great team but we have our own expectations and standards to live up to. “