EDINBURGH Rugby head coach Alan Solomons has no concerns about throwing his players who missed out on Scotland World Cup selection into competitive action tonight when they take on Leinster in their Guinness Pro12 opener.
Dougie Fife, Damien Hoyland and Ben Toolis all start the encounter at Boroughmuir’s Meggetland ground, while Allan Dell, Hamish Watson and Greig Tonks are all primed to come off the bench in the second half.
Given the intense highs and lows they have felt in recent weeks before being handed the ultimate bad news by Scotland head coach Vern Cotter that they would not be going to the showpiece event, some coaches may have wrapped them up in cotton wool.
Not the experienced Solomons, however, and the canny operator believes the players cannot wait to get out there and represent their club in a meaningful match again.
“The guys coming back from the Scotland camp have been very, very good because we have a strong spirit and togetherness at Edinburgh,” Solomons explained.
“They have slotted back in seamlessly. Obviously there is a disappointment not to have made the World Cup, but Edinburgh is their home and we have created a family atmosphere here.
“And you know if you have an upset there is nothing better than being around your family at that time – so I expect to see big performances from them tonight.”
With nine players away in World Cup preparation mode – eight with Scotland and Will Helu with Tonga – and regular captain Mike Coman unavailable due to personal reasons, it says something for the way that Solomons has built up Edinburgh that they can still put out a strong looking starting XV and bench for this one.
This is especially the case in the pack where, despite having six players with Scotland, there is a lot of experience.
The back-row for example features Cornell du Preez, new arrival Nasi Manu and skipper Roddy Grant and Solomons explained: “We have tried to lay a foundation in terms of our personnel over the last few months.
“Our pack has been key to this and we have tried to put in place some good strength in depth which, I think you will agree, we have managed to do.”
In the backs, Phil Burleigh keeps hold of the No 10 shirt despite Tonks’ return and Sam Beard beats Andries Strauss to the No 12 jersey.
Hoyland and Fife fill the wing spots and, for the former, it is a return to the ground where he made his way in the game.
The 21-year-old, then a James Gillespie’s pupil, turned out for the Boroughmuir age-grade teams in his youth and then made the breakthrough with the senior team at Meggetland.
Since then Hoyland has starred for Melrose and Scotland at under-20 and sevens levels and he made his Edinburgh debut last season.
He was a shock call-up to Cotter’s Scotland training squad and he believes his summer experience can make him a better player.
“The summer was awesome, I wasn’t expecting to be in the extended squad, but it was such a great experience being involved in such an intense programme,” Hoyland said.
“I feel I really benefited from it and tried to learn as much as I could from the experienced players around me.
“Now I am excited to be back in an Edinburgh jersey and I really want to play my part in getting us off to a good start in the league.”
Last season Leinster fell below their own standards in finishing fifth in the Pro12 table while Edinburgh eventually ended up eighth.
Of course the Irish side have also been hit by a number of World Cup call-ups, but new head coach Leo Cullen has still been able to name ten rugby union – and one rugby league – internationalists in his squad.
Royce Burke-Flynn, Ross Byrne and Garry Ringrose are set for debuts from the bench.
When the two sides met in the capital in 2014-15, Leinster came out on top 36-23 in May in the final regular season fixture at BT Murrayfield.
15 - J Cuthbert
14 - D Fife
13 - C Dean
12 - S Beard
11 - D Hoyland
10 - P Burleigh
9 - N Fowles
1 - R Sutherland
2 - N Cochrane
3 - J Andress
4 - A Bresler
5 - B Toolis
6 - C Du Preez
7 - R Grant (c)
8 - N Manu
16 - G Turner
17 - A Dell
18 - S Berghan
19 - F McKenzie
20 - H Watson
21 - S Kennedy,
22 - G Tonks,
23 - J Johnstone
15 - I Nacewa
14 - F McFadden
13 - B Te’o
12 - N Reid
11 - D Fanning
10 - C Marsh
9 - L McGrath
1 - M Bent
2 - A Dundon
3 - J Hagan
4 - T Denton
5 - M McCarthy
6 - K McLaughlin (c)
7 - D Leavy
8 - J Conan
16 - B Byrne
17 - P Dooley
18 - R Burke-Flynn
19 - R Molony
20 - D Ryan
21 - I Boss
22 - R Byrne
23 - G Ringrose