Charlie Shiel given his big chance as Edinburgh take on Agen

Scrum-half begins a new chapter in a rugby dynasty

Friday, 15th November 2019, 6:00 am
Graham Shiel has made 11 appearances off the bench for Edinburgh
Graham Shiel has made 11 appearances off the bench for Edinburgh

Charlie Shiel, the son of former Scotland centre Graham Shiel, makes his first professional start for Edinburgh in the European Challenge Cup against Agen in France tonight.

Shiel senior, the 49-year-old now head coach of Super 6 franchise Boroughmuir Bears, won 18 Scotland caps but none more famous than his first when he scored a try as, what was then a rare injury replacement, in the 1991 World Cup against Ireland.

Shiel junior, who also counts Scottish rugby grandee Dougie Morgan as a grandfather, has made 11 appearances off the bench since signing pro terms with Edinburgh but has been handed the No. 9 jersey for tonight’s Pool 3 opener at Stade Armandie.

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“He’s got to prove he can run a game for us,” said Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill. “In his cameos off the bench he’s looked sharp and has a spark. He’s got to be able to be calm and lead the team around the field and drive the team. It will be interesting to see if he can do that from the start.

“He’s got a good instinct, eye for the gap, very tenacious. I think the thing with Charlie is he needs his detail to be on point and he needs to deliver what the team needs and not just what he sees in the game.

“There’s a lot to like about him but with pressure he’s going to have to deliver those things as accurately as possible. It’s a little bit easy to come on for 15-20 minutes when your team’s winning. Agen are a good side playing at home where they rarely lose so it will be a good test for Charlie.”

Scotland internationalists Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie are all named in the starting XV for the first time this season, while lock Sam Thomson also makes his first start for the club.

Cockerill, who revealed he hopes to have openside Hamish Watson back “mid-December” following his World Cup knee injury, refuted suggestions that his interesting team selection betrayed a lack of motivation for Europe’s second-tier competition after reaching the last eight of the Champions Cup last term.

“Not particularly, it’s just that we’ve got a tough run of 13 games on the trot,” he said.

“Damian Hoyland is an international winger playing at full-back for us, Jimmy Johnstone is a very good player, Eroni Sau [Fiji] is an international winger, Jamie Farndale and George Taylor have played very well for us, Simon Hickey is a very good player. That forward pack is good. [Prop] Jamie Bhatti would class himself as an established international, so would Berghan, Barclay, Richie and Gilchrist.”

A new name in the mix is Dan Nutton on the bench and Cockerill explained: “He was a Merchiston schoolboy and was at Newcastle University. He’s played a lot of rugby there.”

Edinburgh Rugby team to play Agen (today, 7pm): D Hoyland; E Sau, J Johnstone, G Taylor, J Farndale; S Hickey, C Shiel; J Bhatti, C Fenton, S Berghan, S Thomson, G Gilchrist, J Barclay, N Haining. Replacements: M Willemse, R Sutherland, M McCallum, L Carmichael, A Miller, D Nutton, J Baggott, D Fife.