Richard Cockerill may not officially take over as Edinburgh head coach until the summer but it appears he is already having a say in selection.
Acting boss Duncan Hodge revealed yesterday that it was a chat with Cockerill, who is currently in caretaker charge of Toulon where he has been working since his sacking by Leicester at the start of the year, which has led to hooker George Turner getting a start against Dragons at Myreside tonight.
With internationalists Ross Ford and Stuart McInally battling for the No.2 jersey, the 24-year-old Turner has become a bit of a forgotten man, and Hodge explained: “He had a couple of games for us during the Six Nations. He’s a hugely talented player but just hasn’t had much of an opportunity.
“There’s a bit of thinking of things going forward and we’ll see how he goes. Speaking to Richard [Cockerill], he’s seen most of the squad but George is one of these guys he hasn’t seen.
“George maybe feels a bit hard done by, he’s not had much game time. We’ve had four hookers who have generally been fit so he’s not had that opportunity. People know he is a very talented player. He’s got a great skill set so it will be good to see him play tomorrow.
“There’s a bit of luck and a bit of coincidence but basically we’ve had four hookers who have not been injured all year. You can guarantee next year that will be different! But that’s the way it goes. And with hooker, like nines and tens, they are very specialist positions. Hooking’s their one job so if there are no injuries you can struggle to get game time. Back-rows and second-rows can slot in and get bench slots but that’s not how it is with hooker.
“He was at London Scottish to get five or six games in a row and then he came back during the Six Nations.”
Turner is one of four changes from the team that slumped to an eighth successive loss at Treviso two weeks ago, with centre Junior Rasolea also being given a chance to show Cockerill what he can do, with Phil Burleigh rested.
Scotland flanker John Hardie returns to the bench after recovering from the knee injury he sustained in that bruising Six Nations encounter with France in Paris and, with the New Zealand-born openside out of contract at the end of the season, tonight’s clash with the Welsh team and next weekend’s 1872 Cup return at Glasgow, could be his final two games in an Edinburgh jersey.
“It’s a boost. It will be good to seem him play,” said Hodge of Hardie’s return. “We know what he’s about, he’s a good player and will hopefully get some decent game time.”
There might be a real end of season feel as Edinburgh’s wretched campaign approaches its conclusion but Hodge and his players are fired up for a match which is not without consequences. A fifth Pro12 defeat at Myreside would push the Capital side slip even further down the table and, with the two Italian sides facing each other on the last weekend, would open up the possibility of a bottom-two finish.
“Absolutely. We’ve got a huge focus on tomorrow night,” said Hodge. “The Dragons showed two weekends ago against Scarlets that they are a good side with good players. They are always tricky to play against, there are some areas of the game you have to be well aware of, but we need to focus on ourselves and get ourselves right.”
This evening marks the end of the six-game trial period at Watsonians, with a consultation process to follow to determine whether to continue at the George Watson’s ground next season.
It is clearly a more suitable size of arena than BT Murrayfield, although hopes that a real Myreside buzz could be generated have been hit by poor performances, results and weather.
Hodge said: “From a team point of view we’ve just not been able to get over the line on four occasions.
“As I understand it, the opinions of the team, players, school, residents, everything gets canvassed after this period. We’ve enjoyed it. We’re just gutted we haven’t got a couple of results.
“The weather has been a factor, and I think the pitch has been in good nick but probably needs a bit of work as well – but these are all things we understand.”
Edinburgh team: 15: Glenn Bryce; 14: Damien Hoyland; 13: Chris Dean; 12: Junior Rasolea; 11: Rory Scholes; 10: Jason Tovey; 9: Nathan Fowles; 1: Allan Dell; 2: George Turner; 3: Simon Berghan; 4: Grant Gilchrist (c); 5: Ben Toolis; 6: Viliame Mata; 7: Hamish Watson; 8: Cornell du Preez.
Subs: Ross Ford, Murray McCallum, Kevin Bryce, Fraser McKenzie, John Hardie, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Duncan Weir, Blair Kinghorn