Dragons clash is ‘must-win’ for Edinburgh Rugby

Greig Tonks has been switched to full-back from stand-off to accommodate the return of Phil Burleigh. Picture: SNS
Greig Tonks has been switched to full-back from stand-off to accommodate the return of Phil Burleigh. Picture: SNS
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EDINBURGH assistant coach Stevie Scott accepts that tonight’s Guinness PRO12 match against Dragons at BT Murrayfield (7.35pm) is a must-win as the Capital men look to kick-start their league campaign.

After slipping to three straight losses in the PRO12, confidence has been boosted by back-to-back wins in Europe and the forwards chief is determined that his charges take that into tonight’s showdown with the struggling Welsh side.

“Every home game is a must-win game,” agreed Scott. “We took two good results in the European fixtures so we can take confidence from that. It was really disappointing the way we lost the Munster game [three weeks ago] but that’s gone now, so we need to focus back on the PRO12 because this is the bread and butter for us.

“This is a home game and we need to perform for sure.”

The first-choice half-back pairing of Phil Burleigh and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne return to the starting line-up after the Scotland scrum-half was rested in Agen last week while the Kiwi stand-off has recovered from injury.

They are two of seven changes, a couple positional, made by Solomons with Greig Tonks shifting back to full-back in place of Dougie Fife.

Tom Brown retains his spot on the right wing, while Will Helu moves to the left, accommodating young centre Chris Dean who is promoted from the bench to partner Matt Scott in midfield.

Lock Alex Toolis comes in to replace the injured Anton Bresler and partners Fraser McKenzie in the second row. Skipper Mike Coman is at blindside to replace the injured Nasi Manu alongside No.8 Cornell Du Preez and John Hardie. Centre/wing Mike Allen, who arrived from Ulster in the summer, could make his debut off the bench, having recovered from his shoulder injury sustained in pre-season.

Scott said: “Phil (Burleigh) is an experienced player and has a good background. He’s played a lot of Super Rugby matches so he’s an important part of the squad, it’s good to have him back.

“Tonksy [Greig Tonks] has been doing a good job there [stand-off] but he gives us some strength at the back at 15, so I’m pleased to see him there.

“Anton Bresler got injured in the first 35 seconds in the Agen game so Alex Toolis comes in at second row. Damien (Hoyland) and Outlea (Katoa) picked up knocks last week but they are not long term, although they’re nasty ones and not worth taking the risk.”

It was this time last year that Edinburgh started to build a bit of momentum, making strides in Europe and famously wresting back the 1872 Cup from Glasgow, and Scott is hoping for another productive period around the end of the year and into 2016.

“The European Challenge Cup is slightly later this year but Edinburgh started to hit form about this time last year,” he said.

“We had back-to-back wins over London Welsh which gave us a bit of confidence, and then we beat Bordeaux. So around this period last year was when we started to perform so we’re looking to do the same again.

“The Glasgow games will look after themselves – we haven’t even spoken about them yet – but the most important thing is the game here against the Dragons and then Ulster next Friday. We want to be peaking towards Christmas time.”

The back-room staffing at Edinburgh has been boosted with the arrival of backs coach Duncan Hodge and defence coach Peter Wilkins, something Scott believes will bear fruit.

He added: “Hodgie’s experience through the World Cup will help us and he’s an Edinburgh guy. He allows Alan to move to an overseeing role as he gives Hodgie more responsibility for the backs.

“Pete (Wilkins) has done a good job since he came from Queensland Reds. Looking at the stats, Edinburgh’s defence is the best in the league. We’ve only leaked six tries this season, and long may that continue – we’re certainly a hard team to beat, we just need to score a few more points now.”

Edinburgh: Greig Tonks, Tom Brown, Chris Dean, Matt Scott, Will Helu, Phil Burleigh, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, WP Nel, Alex Toolis, Fraser McKenzie, Mike Coman (c), John Hardie, Cornell Du Preez. Subs: Neil Cochrane, Rory Sutherland, John Andress, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Sean Kennedy, Mike Allen, Blair Kinghorn.

Newport Gwent Dragons: Carl Meyer, Tom Prydie, Adam Hughes, Adam Warren, Ashton Hewitt, Dorian Jones, Charlie Davies, Boris Stankovich, Elliot Dee, Shaun Knight, Matthew Screech, Rynard Landman (c), Nick Crosswell, Ollie Griffiths, Ed Jackson. Subs: Thomas Rhys Thomas, Phil Price, Lloyd Fairbrother, Cory Hill, Nic Cudd, Sarel Pretorius, Jason Tovey, Ross Wardle.