Edinburgh receive a boost for must-win Euro tie

Perpignan flanker Alasdair Strokosch will not play (Getty Images). Willem Nel below
Perpignan flanker Alasdair Strokosch will not play (Getty Images). Willem Nel below
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Edinburgh Rugby are set to receive a boost ahead of Saturday’s all-or-nothing Heineken European Cup pool clash with Perpignan at Murrayfield.

Skipper Greig Laidlaw’s team need a win to keep alive hopes of reaching the knock-out stages of either the blue riband tournament or the second tier Amlin Challenge Trophy.

According to reports from across the channel the relegation troubled French Top 14 side, who currently lie bottom of the Euro group, are poised to rest key players.

Those mentioned are Scotland flanker Alasdair Strokosch, Italian international centre Tommaso Benvenuti and France winger Sofiane Guitoune.

Also, Georgian prop Giorgi Jgenti is ruled out by injury.

However, of that quartet only Jgenti appeared in the Perpignan starting line-up earlier this season when a bonus-point win was achieved over Edinburgh.

That should serve as a warning but there is no doubt that winger Guitoune is a man in form having scored when Perpignan eased drop fears by beating Bayonne at the start of the new year. And, adding lustre to that success, Bayonne had gone into action fresh from a win over mighty Toulouse.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s South African-born prop, Willem Nel, is playing down the fact that he is now halfway towards qualifying for Scotland under the three year residency rule. It is understood that the former Bloemfontain-based player was partly lured to Scotland by the SRU who suggested he could become a so-called “project signing” allowing him to experience international rugby in a way denied to him by the Springboks, so far.

But, as he looked forward to trying to continue remarkable try-scoring exploits – his season Pro 12 total of three is only a couple behind the overall leader – when Perpignan call, Nel said: “Qualifying for Scotland is not the thing that drives me. What drives me is to perform for the club.”

As for those tries, he said: “It is not about tries. It is always about the team.

“The highlight of my time here is seeing how the team has grown.”

When the league resumes after the current European interlude Nel will link up at some stage with former Free State Cheetahs colleague Andries Strauss who joined Edinburgh over the festive break.

Nel said: “He is a really good defender, a solid inside centre. He’s great with the ball and solid in midfield.

“Andries is also a good attacking player and a really good leader both at Cheetahs and Eastern Province whom he also captained. The big thing for him will be to adjust to the weather. Otherwise it is the same game played between the same four lines.”

One difference Nel has noticed, though, is the difference in profile.

“In South Africa every time you go into a shop you are well known and guys come up. For me it is easier here where I can focus more on my own rugby stuff. Not that you don’t like supporters come up because it is good to be acknowledged as well. But rugby is the equivalent of soccer here in South Africa.”