Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has wielded the axe following last Friday’s dismal home PRO14 defeat by Benetton and made seven changes for tonight’s daunting trip to face champions Scarlets in Llanelli.
Scotland internationalists Ross Ford, John Hardie and Simon Berghan, along with new centre signing Robbie Fruean, drop to the bench, while wing Damien Hoyland, lock Anton Bresler and back-rower Cornell du Preez drop out of the squad altogether.
Edinburgh stalwart Tom Brown returns to the wing to make his 108th appearance for the club and Cockerill used his replacement of Hoyland to make the point that there will be consequences to below-par displays on his watch.
“I don’t think Damien Hoyland played well enough and he’s been left out of the squad for that reason,” said the head coach. “Tom Brown is an experienced Edinburgh player and deserves his opportunity and I didn’t think there was any harm in giving him that chance.
“He’s played over 100 games for the club and he gets his opportunity. It’s as simple as that. If you are in the side and you don’t take your opportunity and play how you can then there is always the chance someone else will get theirs.”
Brown has been behind Hoyland, new boy Jason Harries and the currently injured Dougie Fife in the queue for wing slots but gets his shot tonight.
Cockerill was not so critical of Scotland’s most capped player, hooker Ford, who makes way for fit-again Stuart McInally, or recent arrival Fruean.
“I thought Fordy played pretty well [against Treviso] for his first 80, he played and scrummaged very well and Robbie’s still finding his feet and it’s only his second game.
“Obviously Robbie’s on the bench and drops out of the starting XV. McInally’s back and done enough to keep the No. 2 jersey after dropping out because of injury. Everyone’s competing for spots. I want competition; nobody will be picked on reputation, I’ll pick from what I see in form and what is best for trying to win the next game.”
Scarlets have selected a strong starting XV that includes stars like Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies and Scotland back-rower John Barclay, and Cockerill expected nothing less.
“The closer we get to the autumn internationals when their Welsh contingent will go I’m assuming they’ll pick their best side when they’ve got them available,” said Cockerill. “It’s going to be a huge test for us. We know we can compete with these sides if we put our mind to it, it’s a simple as that.
“I expect a reaction from last week and that’s a mentality from us as a team. I’m sort of pleased they put their best side out because it focuses our minds and shows they have respect for us as. I think they’ll know that if they’re not on it and we are on it, then we’re a side capable of getting a result.”
Cockerill is hopeful that his current front-row shortage will ease soon but hinted that loosehead Michele Rizzo, who was signed from the coach’s former club Leicester on an initial six-week loan, may yet stay on a bit longer.
“I think there will be a conversation to keep Micky a little longer if we can, obviously depending on their [Leicester’s] injury issues,” said Cockerill. “When it starts to come to the end of that [six weeks] I’ll be having a conversation to keep Micky for a little longer until at least [Rory] Sutherland and [Allan] Dell come back into the mix, playing and fully fit.
“Dell I’m hoping will be available for game time against Zebre [in two weeks]. Sutherland should be early November. Dicko [Al Dickinson] is a bit longer term, New Year.”
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn; 14 Tom Brown; 13 Chris Dean; 12 Phil Burleigh; 11 Jason Harries; 10 Duncan Weir; 9 Nathan Fowles; 1 Michele Rizzo; 2 Stuart McInally; 3 WP Nel; 4 Ben Toolis; 5 Grant Gilchrist; 6 Jamie Ritchie; 7 Hamish Watson; 8 Magnus Bradbury (c). Subs: Ross Ford, Darryl Marfo, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie, John Hardie, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Jason Tovey, Robbie Fruean