Ross Ford, Scotland’s most capped player, could be a doubt for next Saturday’s opening autumn Test against Samoa after it emerged the hooker had injured himself during training with the national squad.
It adds to a growing front-row headache for Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, who has lost a number of international props and Glasgow Warriors hooker Fraser Brown for the series, which also includes Tests against New Zealand and Australia.
Ford was not included in Edinburgh’s squad for this evening’s Guinness Pro14 meeting with Ospreys at Myreside and his club coach Richard Cockerill said: “Ross had an injury while in camp with Scotland so we are just trying to determine how long he’ll be out but he’s obviously not fit for this weekend.
“He got a pectoral injury so we’re just waiting to see how long it’s going to be, but we’re not sure. He’s gone to see the specialist. Whether he’s fit for Scotland next weekend I don’t know. He’s with the Scotland squad and being assessed by their medical team.”
Loosehead Darryl Marfo has been retained by the Scotland squad, suggesting the 27-year-old could be in line for what until recently would have seemed an unlikely Test debut.
Cockerill hailed Marfo’s whirlwind rise from fourth-choice loosehead at Edinburgh to a potential first Scotland cap in the space of a few weeks.
The 27-year-old Londoner, whose mother is from Ayrshire, arrived from Bath in the summer but is behind in the pecking order for the No.1 jersey to, when fit, Al Dickinson, Allan Dell and Rory Sutherland. That trio has not been fit, with Dickinson out until the new year, Dell missing the autumn series and Sutherland only just returning to the bench for this evening’s game after a long lay-off.
Marfo has seized his chance and Cockerill said: “I’m obviously delighted for guys to get their opportunity. Darryl has worked very hard. Through circumstance he’s got an opportunity. It’s pretty unusual to have Dickinson, Dell and Sutherland unavailable.
“There’s an injury with [Glasgow loosehead Gordon] Reid too. So you’re starting to test the depth of your squad. Darryl’s worked very hard. He’s come in as fourth-choice loosehead for Edinburgh and he’s done exceptionally.
“Scotland wouldn’t have picked him if they didn’t think he could play at that level. I hope he gets an opportunity and I’ll be very interested to see how he plays at that level. Set-piece he is very physical and very good.”
Openside flanker Hamish Watson has also been held back by the Scotland squad but Cockerill does have a few released back for today’s match at Myreside. Wing Dougie fife, centre Phil Burleigh and scrum-half Nathan Fowles get a run in the backs.
Up front, lock Grant Gilchrist and back-rowers Jamie Ritchie and Cornell du Preez all start. Magnus Bradbury returns to the squad but is named on the bench. We know Magnus is a very good player. We’ve dealt with his disciplinary stuff and we move forward,” said the coach.
“He’s always applied himself in training. He’s on the bench because he’s working his way back. He hasn’t played for almost five weeks and also Luke Crosbie has played very well. Jamie Ritchie and Cornell du Preez have played well too so it’s difficult for him to push his way straight back into the team.”
Cockerill stressed the importance of this evening’s game against an Ospreys side who have had a bad start to their season and are missing nine players to the Wales squad, as Edinburgh look to continue their winning run and head into the mini break in good spirits.
He said: “We’re now four points above Treviso, who are fifth in our conference, but the reality is that we’re probably not going to be as consistent as the three sides above us [Scarlets, Leinster and Ulster).
“We want to put some space between ourselves in fourth and everyone below us because, as a bare minimum, that gives us the opportunity to qualify for Europe next season. That’s an important objective.
“So is putting pressure on the sides above us – we still have them all to play and we’d like to be in the mix so that we’ve got a chance of challenging for the top three. This isn’t a season-defining match by any means, but it would put distance between the guys below us and put pressure on the teams above us.”
Seven changes to the team is actually quite modest compared with a lot of Cockerill’s recent selections but he said that is a policy that will continue through the season.
“The reason I’ve rotated is because we’re going to miss large parts of our squad for long periods of the season, so I didn’t want to carry on playing the same team and then have to make mass changes and bring in guys who just haven’t played,” explained Cockerill.
“Instead we’ve been rotating seven, eight, nine guys pretty much every week. Hopefully that’s put us in good stead. We’ll miss players of the calibre of our Scotland internationals but we’ve got a good group of guys that will be very competitive, physical and motivated against Ospreys.”
Edinburgh squad: Blair Kinghorn; Dougie Fife, James Johnstone, Phil Bureligh, Tom Brown; Jason Tovey, Nathan Fowles; Michele Rizzo, Neil Cochrane, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie, Grant Gilchrist, Luke Crosbie, Jamie Ritchie, Cornell du Preez. Subs: Cameron Fenton, Rory Sutherland, Murray McCallum, Magnus Bradbury, Lewis Carmichael, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Glenn Bryce, Chris Dean.