Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons has said that the team he announced today to face the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on Sunday amid Scotland’s Six Nations campaign is a sign of his side’s strength in depth.
The club is without six Scotland internationalists selected to face England in this Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash, while fellow caps Tim Visser (ankle) and Greig Tonks (shoulder) are notable injured absentees.
Edinburgh Rugby can still field a backline in which five of the seven have represented Scotland at a senior level, and a gnarled pack with a wealth of senior rugby nous.
However, despite their experience as individuals, the club’s starting side is still relatively new to the Murrayfield set-up, and features one debutant and three others making their first start.
Solomons believes that while an exciting combination of returning internationalists, new recruits and blossoming youngsters will take to the field, they are at the start of their journey to becoming a cohesive unit.
“I think that we have, over the course of the season, been able to improve our strength and depth, and I think that is reflected in the team that we are able to select”, said Solomons
“Certainly, on paper, it’s a positive sign that we can put out a team like this during the RBS 6 Nations, however a lot of these players have had little game time for us, so we have to bear that in mind and put it in perspective.
“This will be no easy task. Dragons are very tough opponents, especially at home, and are two places above us in the table.”
Scotland caps Nick De Luca (centre), Jack Cuthbert (full-back) and Tom Brown (wing) are joined by A-capped wing Dougie Fife and scrum-half Grayson Hart, who makes his second start since arriving in the summer.
The back division is completed by new arrivals Carl Bezuidenhout (stand-off) and Andries Strauss (centre), who will make their first start and club debut respectively.
The club also welcome the return of lock Grant Gilchrist from Scotland duty.
He packs down with Izak van der Westhuizen in the boiler house, behind props Wicus Blaauw and Willem Nel, and hooker James Hilterbrand.
The starting side is completed by a back-row of Cornell Du Preez – who moves to number eight in the absence of David Denton – openside stalwart Roddy Grant and New Zealander Mike Coman [pictured], who brings the leadership qualites earned as captain of Hawke’s Bay to the Murrayfield club, with the honour of skippering the side on his first start.
Solomons said: “Mike [Coman], like some others, was recruited on the grounds of his leadership qualities as well as his rugby ability.
“It’s important that we have guys like this who can step into the breach when our Scottish internationalists are away.
“He hasn’t played much for us because he picked up an injury shortly after he arrived, but he’s been part of the squad for some time now, he knows and understands everyone and everything.”
The international window also offers an opportunity for the nation’s top young players to promote themselves into the senior side, with an entire front-row of elite development players [EDP] selected on the bench.
Speaking on the importance of blooding youngsters in an experienced squad, Solomons concluded: “We have got to get our academy right.
“We have got to identify young Scots and introduce them to our set-up, get them through our EDP programme and try and get them up into the senior side.
“But what is important is not simply their involvement in insolation, but their selection in a side which contains experienced, senior players with good leadership.
“It’s great to have these guys on the bench. They are good young players who have been on the periphery this season and have trained with the senior squad.
“This is a good opportunity for them in this match.”
TEAM TO PLAY DRAGONS
15 Jack Cuthbert
14 Dougie Fife
13 Nick De Luca
12 Andries Strauss
11 Tom Brown
10 Carl Bezuidenhout
9 Grayson Hart
1 Wicus Blaauw
2 James Hilterbrand
3 Willem Nel
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Izak van der Westhuizen
6 Mike Coman CAPTAIN
7 Roddy Grant
8 Cornell Du Preez
16 George Turner
17 Alex Allan
18 Ewan McQuillin
19 Ollie Atkins
20 Tomas Leonardi
21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
22 Sam Beard
23 Harry Leonard