Edinburgh Rugby coach Alan Solomons has named Sam Hidalgo-Clyne among the substitutes as the Capital side bid to extend their unbeaten run in the Guinness PRO12 to five matches when they face Zebre in Parma this afternoon.
The scrum-half was among nine Edinburgh players involved at the World Cup, but his contribution was restricted to a brief appearance from the bench in the pool match against South Africa.
Solomons is sticking largely with the group that has proved successful in the opening weeks of the campaign as he awaits the nod from Scotland management to select Hidalgo-Clyne’s international colleagues.
“They obviously need to have a rest period, they have had a very hectic World Cup, so the players who have been playing regularly will need to rest for a couple of weeks. They will be reintegrated. Sammy hasn’t had a lot of rugby,” said the coach.
The return of Hidalgo-Clyne is timely given the absence of Sean Kennedy who missed out on last week’s win over Ulster after suffering a back spasm on the morning of the game. Although almost recovered, Solomons preferred not to subject Kennedy to the rigours of a flight and a lengthy bus journey for today’s match.
Aside from the inclusion of Hidalgo-Clyne, Dougie Fife and youngster Blair Kinghorn – who is poised to make his debut – among the substitutes, Solomons has made three changes to his starting line-up. Rory Sutherland returns at loose head after his international foray last week when he was called up as cover by Vern Cotter. Meanwhile, Jack Cuthbert and Will Helu start in place of injury victims Greig Tonks and Chris Dean at full-back and centre respectively.
While Glasgow had six World Cup returnees for the trip to meet Leinster in Dublin last night and Richie Gray is listed in the Castres Olympique squad to play Grenoble today, Solomons is happy to wait for an infusion of fully refreshed players.
“That tournament not only takes a lot out of you physically but also takes a lot out of you mentally,” he said of the World Cup, adding: “All of the boys have been regulars in the team over the last couple of seasons so I don’t think there will be a problem reintegrating them. Some of the boys have been back in (at Murrayfield) already just to say hi, and they are looking forward to getting back.”
While the prospect of having a full-strength squad from which to select is something he is anticipating keenly, Solomons has his focus firmly on today’s match at a venue that has not been a happy hunting ground for Edinburgh, who have lost on their last two visits.
“What I have found in my time in the PRO12 is that the Italian sides when they are at home are a completely different kettle of fish,” said Solomons, who expects nothing less than another tough encounter. “They will be at full pitch at home and obviously it will be an important game for them. We know we need to bring it and we need to play well.”
The hosts, without a win in ten matches, have ten World Cup representatives back in the fold – the only absentee from the international group is Gonzalo Garcia, who was injured against Ireland – and have new signing Jean Cook making his debut at blind side.
Naturally, Solomons is delighted with the way his men have launched their campaign, particularly the manner of their four wins to date, notably last week’s effort against Ulster.
“They showed a lot of character – that is the important thing,” he said. “We have really good guys in this team and a really strong spirit in this team and I wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t unexpected that they showed that character, but it was very welcome and they deserve a lot of praise for it.”