Edinburgh make nine changes as they take on Leinster

Pierre Schoeman has become a favourite with the Edinburgh fans
Pierre Schoeman has become a favourite with the Edinburgh fans
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Edinburgh have made nine changes to the team that scrapped their way to their first PRO14 win of the season against Connacht at BT Murrayfield.

Ross Ford makes his first start of the season at hooker tonight, there is a rare 15s place for Scotland sevens’ winger Jamie Farndale, and David Cherry is set to make his debut for the club from off the bench.

They have travelled to Dublin to take on Leinster (ko 7.35pm) at the Royal Dublin Showground where only one visiting team managed a win throughout last season – Benetton Treviso.

Leinster have selected something close to their first-choice side with the possible exception of the front row. The wholesale changes to the Edinburgh team, and especially the absence of Blair Kinghorn, Henry Pyrgos, Matt Scott and skipper Stuart McInally, suggests that Richard Cockerill has marked tonight’s clash under “lost causes”, not that the combative little coach was going to admit as much.

“You could interpret it that way, but it’s a bit like Leinster sending a completely different 23 to Cardiff,” he argued. “They came away with a result. The reality is that we’ve got to go there and try and win. How realistic that is we’ll have to see. Are we supposed to keep flogging the same 15 blokes for the next six weeks until the Autumn Tests come?”

Whoever takes the league points, several of Edinburgh’s players have a point to prove. Ross Ford has 111 international caps to his name but is in danger of becoming an irrelevance at Edinburgh with Stuart McInally in such commanding form. Chris Dean has slipped down the midfield pecking order and Alan Dell may have appeared for the British and Irish Lions last year but he has a fight to start for Edinburgh with the challenge from fellow South African Pierre Schoeman, already a fan favourite for his up-and-at-’em style with the ball in hand.

Jamie Farndale remains with the Scotland sevens squad but Cockerill has already shown faith in several short-game refuseniks, reviving the 15-a-side career of one-time Scotland winger Dougie Fife and giving centre James Johnston meaningful game time. If he impresses, Farndale may follow his sevens amigos into the Edinburgh squad on a more permanent basis but Cockerill also pointed out that injuries to Damien Hoyland, Tom Brown and Darcy Graham, who has only recently recovered, left the selectors with few options.

If Cockerill appears to have first dibs on the national sevens squad that is only because “Glasgow have got lots of wingers and lots of strength in depth so their need is less than ours in those positions”.

The coach admitted that it takes time for a sevens player to find his feet when thrown back into the 15-a-side game but Farndale has trained with Edinburgh all week, he has the advantage of size and speed on his side and, his coach pointed out, he scored a good try in a pre-season match against the Falcons.

“We are going there to try and win,” Cockerill insisted. “That is a good team isn’t it? Apart from Fraser McKenzie, all that forward pack is capped and will be in consideration for the autumn internationals.

“It is a test of our strength in depth and of those players to step up. Chris Dean and Pablo [Socino], who comes to us with a good reputation, have played well for us. We know what Duhan [van der Merwe] can do and he [Farndale] has been outstanding on the sevens circuit.

“Sean Kennedy needs an opportunity. Henry’s [Pyrgos] wife is in labour as we speak so he is unavailable and we are looking after him as well. Look, that is a good squad. Schoeman and Murray McCallum are very good players, Crosbie, James Johnstone, too.”

Edinburgh: 15. Dougie Fife; 14. Jamie Farndale, 13. Chris Dean, 12. Juan Pablo Socino, 11. Duhan van der Merwe; 10. Jaco van der Walt, 9. Sean Kennedy; 1. Allan Dell, 2. Ross Ford, 3. Simon Berghan, 4. Fraser McKenzie (c), 5. Ben Toolis, 6. Luke Hamilton, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Magnus Bradbury. Subs: 16. Dave Cherry; 17. Pierre Schoeman; 18. Murray McCallum; 19. Callum Hunter-Hill; 20. Luke Crosbie; 21. Nathan Fowles; 22. Simon Hickey; 23. James Johnstone.