Edinburgh Rugby forced to play second fiddle as Scotland service looms for key players

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The unfolding financial crisis in English rugby has caused many to give thanks to the safety net provided by the Scottish Rugby Union to Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors but our professional teams also know that part of the deal is that they play second fiddle to the national side.

It is particularly true at times like these when an international series is looming. Gregor Townsend will today name his Scotland squad for the home autumn Tests which begin a week on Saturday with the visit of Australia and continue over the following three weekends against Fiji, New Zealand and Argentina. The national coach has begun working this week with some home-based players and the coaches of Edinburgh and Glasgow will have to do without some of their leading lights for this Saturday’s fixtures, against Zebre and the Lions, respectively.

The capital side look likely to bear the brunt of it. Mike Blair has ten “managed” players whose importance to the Scotland side is such that their game-time is carefully monitored. The Edinburgh coach is unsure how many of the ten he will be able to call on for the trip to Parma but knows that none is likely to be available for the match against Cardiff the following weekend which clashes with the autumn opener against Australia. The Wallabies match actually falls outside the Test window, so Townsend is expected to select a team composed solely of home-based players. “Some guys have gone into the Scotland training camp,” said Blair. “We’ve got ten managed players within our squad now so they’ve gone away and have training at the start of this week and we’ll find out later in the week about their availability for us.”

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Glasgow are in South Africa this week and have been struck down by injury issues and a gastro bug so hope to retain some of their Scotland men. Edinburgh, by contrast, are likely to find themselves without the services of a number of their big guns. Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Darcy Graham, Duhan van der Merwe, Mark Bennett, Blair Kinghorn, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Sam Skinner and Grant Gilchrist are all key players in the national squad. Townsend may take the view that some, like van der Merwe, may benefit from a club match this weekend. “This is very much up to Gregor and what he wants him to do,” said Blair. “The back three is probably an area for Scotland within the home-based teams where there is potentially a lack of options. I’m sure Duhan would benefit from playing another game but he’d also benefit from a training week with Scotland and being ready to go for Australia.”

Duhan van der Merwe made a winning return for Edinburgh against  Bennetton. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Duhan van der Merwe made a winning return for Edinburgh against  Bennetton. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Duhan van der Merwe made a winning return for Edinburgh against Bennetton. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The winger rejoined Edinburgh earlier this month following the financial collapse of Worcester Warriors and quickly made his mark with a try double against Benetton. If he is unavailable to face Zebre then Wes Goosen could be given his Edinburgh bow. Goosen signed in the summer from the Hurricanes but a couple of niggling injuries have delayed his debut.

Blair knows this is the time when his non-Scottish qualified players need to step up. “We’ve tried to get some continuity and cohesion with our selections but also bring guys through so when our internationals are away players aren’t coming through completely devoid of game-time,” he said.

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