Edinburgh need to show flexibility for Zebre fixture says Mike Blair after full-back selection
Mike Blair is looking for his Edinburgh squad to display a degree of flexibility after naming Jaco van der Walt at full-back for Friday night’s URC clash with Zebre Parma at the DAM Health Stadium.
Van der Walt has found his chances at stand-off limited this season due to injury and Blair Kinghorn’s successful conversion to fly-half but spoke earlier in the week about his willingness to play in other positions.
He came on at centre against Bath last weekend and gets a chance at 15 for the visit of the Italians.
Blair expects his players to be able to adapt, particularly when injuries force his hand. Henry Immelman, his first choice full-back, suffered a bang to the knee against Bath. Emiliano Boffelli can also play at 15 but has a slight back strain and is being rested after a long and fruitful run on the wing. Darcy Graham, another option at full-back, is still a few weeks away from returning from a quad issue and Damien Hoyland has a long-term injury.
“We want guys to be rugby players and fit in where required,” said the Edinburgh coach who has no doubts about van der Walt’s capabilities.
Zebre are bottom of the URC, winless after 13 games, and anything other than a victory would be a major setback for Edinburgh’s play-off aspirations. Nevertheless, Blair has resisted the temptation to make too many changes and is respectful of opponents who ran Newcastle close in the Challenge Cup recently.
Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist and Magnus Bradbury will sit out, with Dave Cherry, Glen Young and Mesu Kunavula replacing the experienced trio. Freddie Owsley comes in on the wing for Boffelli to make his third appearance for Edinburgh. The former UK sprinter was sent off at the Melrose Sevens recently but Blair said the red card had been rescinded.
There are two other changes in the back line, with Cammy Hutchison coming in at inside centre for James Lang and Henry Pyrgos starting at scrum-half in place of Ben Vellacott. Pyrgos will captain Edinburgh, with Lang and Vellacott named among the replacements.
Edinburgh have slipped to seventh in the URC but are at the DAM Health for their final three regular season fixtures as they target a top four finish that would guarantee them a home play-off quarter-final.
“This is a really important game,” added Blair. “There is no point resting guys and them being fresh for a game in two or three weeks time. We have picked a strong team here.”