Edinburgh v Munster: Key players return as Mike Blair rings changes and new signing set for debut

Edinburgh Rugby welcome the return of several internationalists for Friday night’s crucial BKT United Rugby Championship match against Munster at DAM Health Stadium.

Pierre Schoeman, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Viliame Mata, Blair Kinghorn, Mark Bennett, Duhan van der Merwe and Darcy Graham all return from international duty with Scotland to reinforce Edinburgh’s starting XV for a match expected to attract club’s biggest crowd of season so far.

The capital side make four further changes to the side that lost away to Benetton last week as academy hooker Paddy Harrison Luan de Bruin, Ben Vellacott and Chris Dean all get the nod for the Friday night clash. Wes Goosen moves to full-back – with Henry Immelman missing out through injury – while there is a place on the bench for recently signed hooker, Tom Cruse, who is in line to make his Edinburgh debut.

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The capital club has called on its fans to help pay tribute to the great Doddie Weir OBE, who last weekend tragically lost his battle with MND, with supporters encouraged to wear tartan garments to bring colour to the match, where a moment’s applause will be held in his memory before kick-off.

Head coach Mike Blair said: “First and foremost, this week has been really tough for all connected to Scottish rugby. Doddie was such a huge figure and the enormity of what he managed to achieve to raise both awareness and money in the fight against MND is unmeasurable – the thoughts of all of us at Edinburgh Rugby go out to his family, friends and former teammates. As a squad, we’ve spoken a lot about Doddie this week and what he stood for. It’s brilliant that we’re able to pay tribute to a real icon of Scottish rugby and it will be an emotional moment as we celebrate his life pre-match.

“On the match, we’re delighted to welcome back a number of our internationalists for what is a really tough match-up, with one of the league’s most competitive sides. Munster are a quality outfit but we’re up for the challenge and excited to be back at DAM Health Stadium in front of our home support, who will no doubt play their part in creating an electric atmosphere.”

An electric back-three unit sees full-back Goosen and Scotland wing duo Graham and Van der Merwe combine for the first time. Bennett and club centurion Dean link up in midfield, while Vellacott and Kinghorn return at half-back. Hooker Harrison packs down alongside props Schoeman and De Bruin as Jamie Hodgson and club co-captain Gilchrist complete the tight-five. Luke Crosbie retains his place at openside flanker with Scotland skipper Ritchie and Fijian star Mata both returning to the capital back-row.

Edinburgh team (to face Munster at DAM Health Stadium in the BKT United Rugby Championship on Friday 2 December. Kick-off 7.35pm): 15 Wes Goosen; 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Duhan van der Merwe; 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Ben Vellacott; 1 Pierre Schoeman, 2 Patrick Harrison, 3 Luan de Bruin; 4 Jamie Hodgson, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 7 Luke Crosbie, 8 Viliame Mata. Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Boan Venter, 18 WP Nel, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Nick Haining, Charlie Shiel, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 James Lang.

Jamie Ritchie returns from international duty to co-captain Edinburgh against Munster at the DAM Health Stadium