Hamish Watson ruled out of Edinburgh's clash with Zebre
Scotland flanker Hamish Watson is out of Edinburgh's clash with Zebre in Parma today with a rib injury but acting head coach Duncan Hodge insisted it was 'not a serious one' and poses no threat to the forward's Six Nations hopes.
Loosehead prop Alasdair Dickinson is more of a concern, with news still awaited on the extent of the lower leg injury he picked up in the 25-12 loss to Glasgow on Boxing Day, as Hodge makes six changes for the vital clash against the Guinness Pro12 basement boys.
Will Helu starts on the wing, while Junior Rasolea is named at inside centre and Sean Kennedy replaces Sam Hidalgo-Clyne at scrum-half.
Allan Dell replaces Dickinson in the loosehead berth, while Fraser McKenzie comes in to pack down at lock and Jamie Ritchie is in for Watson on the openside flank.
Hodge hinted that the post mortem into that 1872 Cup loss, in which Edinburgh did well in terms of possession and territory but still lost by three tries to none, had been frank as they look to stop the rot against a team who beat them at home earlier in the season.
“We are hurting,” said Hodge. “There’s certainly no taking all the positives from it and being over-confident. There’s none of that. I’d probably suggest we’re a bit the other way.
“No-one likes losing, certainly not at home, and we’ve got a big, tough challenge at the weekend. All we can do is front up and do our jobs and get on with it. Try and make amends.”
Even if they hadn’t suffered that shock 19-14 loss to the Italians at the end of October, Edinburgh would still have travelled for a match which kicks-off at noon local time [11am GMT] with wariness, having also lost to them in Parma last season.
“They’re in that league position, but they’re a good side,” insisted Hodge. “Playing away from home is tough; playing five days after Glasgow is tough.
“That’s just what we have to deal with and we have to get on and do our job and focus on winning and be positive. We’ve got to impose ourselves on the game as well. That’s a massive thing. If we get our job right, that’s the most important thing. That’s what we’re focusing on this week.”
Third bottom is certainly nowhere near where Edinburgh would want to be at this point in the season but Hodge insisted that there have been enough good signs in recent months to believe that a brighter new year can lie ahead.
“I certainly think we’ve been challenging teams more in attack,” he said. “We’ve got good players, yes in the backs particularly they’re young and we’re trying to adapt to change there and it’s a coachable group.
“We still need to work a lot harder off the ball but that’s coming. There’s some things like defence and set-piece that have been bedrocks here, we just need to get them back to the level we were at.
“Ambition suits some of the players we’ve got but it’s tempering that, playing in our own half. Too often we get to the halfway line and get turned over and you’re going ‘ugh’. But you’re not going to change without that, it’s a rocky road because you have to accept that there will be mistakes.”
Hodge believes today’s assignment is about finding a balance between recognising the opportunity that comes from playing a team who have only won once this season, while learning the lessons from the fact that victory came against themselves.
“There’s definite opportunities to score some points there,” said Hodge. “We’ve highlighted that and we have to believe it.
“There’s definitely no complacency. I said at the time Zebre wasn’t a freak game, we knew how they were going to play and we were just a bit off. They scored that try at the end but it was three mistakes in row, literally in the space of ten seconds and we hold our hands up.
“There were a number of things that night that didn’t go for us, but we gave them too many easy outs for points and pressure and if we take that away, we get more time in their half to exert pressure. We didn’t impose ourselves enough on them that night.”
Edinburgh team: Blair Kinghorn, Damien Hoyland, Chris Dean, Junior Rasolea, Will Helu, Duncan Weir, Sean Kennedy, Allan Dell, Ross Ford, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie, Ben Toolis, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Cornell Du Preez. Subs: Neil Cochrane, Jack Cosgrove, Murray McCallum, Lewis Carmichael, Viliame Mata, Nathan Fowles, Jason Tovey, Glenn Bryce.