With only three changes from last week, there is a settled look to the Edinburgh side that will take on Scarlets tonight – but only in the sense that so many players remain unavailable. Between Scotland call-ups and injuries, more than 20 members of Richard Cockerill’s squad have been ruled out of the Pro14 match, meaning that, as against Zebre last week, sections of the team are severely lacking in experience.
Tom Brown returns on the right wing, Murray McCallum is back at tighthead, and Scotland Sevens player Ally Miller will make his debut at openside against a Scarlets line-up that includes Scotland squad member Blade Thomson and former Edinburgh scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. Lewis Wynne, who had been on a season-long loan from Glasgow to London Scottish, is the back-row replacement.
Cockerill, pictured, knows that extending his team’s winning run at BT Murrayfield to seven games in all competitions will be tough in the circumstances, but he expects his more experienced players to show the sort of leadership that was conspicuous by its absence in the second half of the loss to Zebre.
“We’ve got 22 guys unavailable through injury and selection,” the head coach said. “We have eight contracted back-rowers and two were available, so that’s where we’re at with that. Our four first-choice locks are unavailable through being with Scotland or through injury.
“I want the senior guys to step up. I want everybody to take responsibility for their performance and we’ll see where we get to, but guys like [Henry] Pyrgos and [Simon] Hickey, Chris Dean, Tom Brown, Dougie Fife – have to take responsibility. Ross Ford is the most capped Scotsman of all time, he’s got to step up and lead from the front in how he plays.”
Although he would have no complaints were his team to under-perform yet manage to fluke a win, Cockerill knows the more plausible route to victory is for his players to excel themselves. “I’ll take us playing really badly and winning, but the reality is that I want the Edinburgh team to play as well as they can, so we need to make sure that we do that,” he added.