John Hardie to make first start for Edinburgh in five months

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John Hardie will start for Edinburgh Rugby for the first time in five months when Richard Cockerill’s side take on Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night in the Guiness PRO14.

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John Hardie returns to the Edinburgh starting XV. Picture: SNS Group

John Hardie returns to the Edinburgh starting XV. Picture: SNS Group

Hardie, who made his return to playing action after a three-month ban when he came on as a replacement in the win over Leinster last week.

The Scotland flanker is one of five changes to the starting XV, with his fellow Scotland caps Sam Hidalgo-Clyne starting at scrum-half, and number eight Cornell du Preez also handed a start after being released from international duty.

Elsewhere, Jordan Lay will start in the front row and wing Jason Harries is in line to make his first start in the competition since round four.

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Victory for Edinburgh would take them into third spot in Conference B but Ulster have been boosted by the earlier-than-expected return of Tommy Bowe.

Cockerill said: “I expect [Ulster] to be confident, but I’m also confident and I believe in our playing group.

“If we lose, it’s not the end of our play-off hopes. For us it’s nice, as a team, that we’re putting ourselves in a position where we’re actually competing for the play-offs - which is a step forward.”

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Edinburgh: Dougie Fife; Jason Harries, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Duhan Van Der Merwe; Jaco Van Der Walt, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Jordan Lay, Neil Cochrane, Murray McCallum; Fraser McKenzie (capt), Lewis Carmichael; Viliame Mata, John Hardie, Cornell du Preez.

Replacements: Cameron Fenton, Rory Sutherland, Elliot Millar-Mills, Marcus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie, Nathan Fowles, Duncan Weir, Glenn Bryce