With three games remaining in the regular Guinness PRO12 season, Edinburgh are looking to build on their bonus-point victory over Zebre a fortnight ago.
Wing Damien Hoyland found himself on the scoresheet against the Italian side, notching a brace to help his side to a 29-0 victory at BT Murrayfield and the youngster is looking to continue his impressive form
“I’m absolutely loving it, it’s great to get game time and be involved,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to get on the end of some tries and I feel like I’m playing with some confidence just now. For a winger that’s quite important. I’m excited for next season.”
Edinburgh return to PRO12 action tonight, with the team taking on top-of-the-table Leinster at the RDS Arena. The Dublin-based province are fresh off a 16-13 victory against their provincial rivals Munster last weekend and Hoyland is under no illusion at the difficulty of the clash.
He said: “Leinster are definitely one of the better teams as you can see from their league position. They’ve got a good wide defensive line and have been one of the harder teams to break down.
“The way our defensive coach has put it, it’s going to be like two bulls going at each other.”
With Edinburgh pushing for a top-six finish and European qualification, and Leinster looking to consolidate their position at the top of the PRO12, both sides are hungry to boost their respective league hopes
Hoyland added: “These are a massive few games coming up for us.
“We need all the points we can get – we’ve got Leinster and Munster away for the next two games, and we need to get a win in at least one of them to push for the top six if not further. Leinster have a lot to play for as well, so it’s going to be a big one.”
Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons believes the timely return of Scotland flanker John Hardie gives his side a huge boost as they face the leaders.
Hardie returns to the openside berth for the first time since he picked up groin and knee problems at the end of the Six Nations.
Solomons said: “It is good to have [Hardie] back. We were patient. He was not 100 per cent right. He had a bit of a groin injury, a little bit a neck injury, understandable after the hard Six Nations and we kept him back until he was absolutely right.
“He is an explosive, 100 per cent player. He gives everything every minute he is out on the pitch and is a good team man.”
Hoyland returned to familiar surroundings last weekend, with Edinburgh competing as the sole pro team at the Melrose Sevens and, although the Capital club successfully lifted the Ladies’ Cup, beating Jed-Forest 29-19 in the final, the former Melrose winger knew that his squad could not take the tournament lightly. “That’s probably the most pressure I’ve felt playing rugby,” he explained. “If you win it’s expected and if you lose it’s ‘how is a pro team not winning?’ So there was pressure from a lot of places but it was great coming away with the trophy.”
Melrose Sevens-winning captain Chris Dean comes in at outside centre and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne moves up from the bench to take the scrum half berth. Young forward Jamie Ritchie is selected by Solomons to start at blindside.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Dave Kearney
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn 14 Damien Hoyland 13 Chris Dean 12 Phil Burleigh 11 Tom Brown 10 Jason Tovey 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford (c), 1 Alasdair Dickinson
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 John Andress, 19 Alex Toolis, 20 Magnus Bradbury, 21 Hamish Watson, 22 Sean Kennedy, 23 Mike Allan