Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has made four changes for tonight’s Guinness Pro14 clash with the Cheetahs at BT Murrayfield.
Centres Matt Scott and Chris Dean, as well as wing Dougie Fife, have paid the price for last weekend’s poor defensive display against Benetton with the axe.
Despite a 31-30 win, Cockerill was unhappy with the showing against the Italians, who outscored Edinburgh five tries to four seven days ago, and the coach was clear that the dropping of the three backs, Scott and Fife completely, and Dean to the bench, was a response to last week.
The other change to the starting XV sees Allan Dell rested ahead of the upcoming Heineken Champions Cup double header against Montpellier, and Toulon, with Rory Sutherland coming in at loosehead for his first start of the season.
Argentine centre Juan Pablo Socino forms a new pairing with James Johnstone, while Darcy Graham comes in on the wing.
“I’ve picked the team that I think deserves to play,” said Cockerill. “Some guys have been left out from a selection point of view and Allan Dell is rested through the international protocols.
“The midfield is picked because the other two [Scott and Dean] didn’t play well enough. It’s the same with Dougie Fife. Darcy get his opportunity because Dougie has not played well enough for the last three weeks.”
Cockerill agreed that defensive failings had been the main bone of contention with the Benetton performance.
“We’ve had some good meetings and we’ve spoken around some fundamental parts of what we need to be like as a team,” he said. “That’s both how we play and also how we approach our work on the field and our work in training. That’s reflected in the side I’ve picked.
“I’m disappointed in how we let in soft tries because it’s not like us. We have defended very well last year and this year. To be so soft to play against isn’t good enough, it’s as simple as that. Guys have paid for that with their place in the team.”
Sutherland gets his chance as fellow international loosehead Darryl Marfo continues to find himself on the outer. The man who shot from nowhere to play in all three of last year’s autumn Tests is on the bench for Boroughmuir tomorrow.
“At the moment he’s not playing as well as the others. Until he does he won’t get his opportunity,” said Cockerill.
“I watch him train every day. When I think he deserves to play in the team he will play in the team, but until then he will keep working at his game. At this point, with [the suspended Pierre] Schoeman and Dell absent, Sutherland has done really well at club level, has worked hard and shown a good appetite to improve. [Murray] McCallum [who is on the bench] is a better option at loosehead than Darryl at the moment.”
Socino, a summer acquisition from Newcastle Falcons, has an opportunity to stake a claim for the European games. The 30-year-old former Jaguares man, who has four full Pumas caps, is the brother of 16-times capped Argentina hooker Santiago Socino. Graham, the 21-year-old winger from Hawick, also gets his chance after a frustrating few weeks.
“He’s had injuries in the early part of the season, which is disappointing. He’s played a couple of club games and he is very motivated, a good young player and someone I want to give opportunities to,” said Cockerill of the former Scotland Under-20 star.
“If guys don’t perform then other guys get the opportunities. Dougie Fife has not performed well enough so Darcy gets his chance to play. He works very hard and he’s still very young.
“We all think a lot of him so why shouldn’t he get an opportunity in front of the senior guy when that guy is not doing what he should be doing?”
The daunting trip to face Montpellier next Saturday is looming large but Cockerill is full focused on bagging more precious Pro14 points before the shift to European action.
“We need to beat Cheetahs. The league is very important and we need the points,” he said. “Cheetahs are a physical, abrasive outfit with quick backs out wide that’ll punish you throughout the 80 minutes. However, we’ve got plenty of belief, especially at home, and I’ve got every confidence that this group of players can bounce back.”
Edinburgh: 15. Blair Kinghorn; 14. Darcy Graham, 13. James Johnstone, 12. Juan Pablo Socino, 11. Duhan van der Merwel; 10. Simon Hickey, 9. Henry Pyrgos; 1. Rory Sutherland, 2. Stuart McInally (c), 3. WP Nel, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Bill Mata. Subs: 16. Ross Ford; 17. Murray McCallum; 18. Simon Berghan; 19. Luke Hamilton; 20. Jamie Ritchie; 21. Sean Kennedy; 22. Jaco van der Walt; 23. Chris Dean.