Charlie Shiel handed first home start as Edinburgh look to cement place at top

For a proud Englishman, life is always rosy, but Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill is having a particularly fragrant time of it of late as his side sit three points clear at the top of Guinness Pro 14 Conference B.

Scrum-half Charlie Shiel, the son of ex-Scotland centre Graham, starts for Edinburgh after impressing off the bench in recent games. Picture: SNS/SRU

The buoyant capital team welcome a struggling Cardiff Blues [currently 14 points adrift of their hosts] hoping to consolidate top spot in their push for the play-offs in June.

Scrum-half Charlie Shiel, the 22-year-old son of former Scotland centre Graham, is handed his first home start as Edinburgh make five changes from the side that whipped Connacht 41-14 last weekend. Shiel is selected at half-back alongside a revamped centre pairing of George Taylor and James Johnstone.

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Cockerill said: “We need to make sure we’re on it. We should be well motivated since we’re on a good run, but we need to make sure we get all the basic things right.

“The weather will be a little bit better than the last two weeks, but we need to be really functional and practical in how we play. We just need to go and win the game – do whatever it takes to win. I’m not fussy about our style. Substance, physicality and mentality should be ten out of ten for us, and we should go out with confidence to make sure we get our performance right.”

Johnstone and Taylor come in to fill midfield slots vacated by experienced Test pair Matt Scott and Mark Bennett, who are out with a head knock and hamstring injury 
respectively.

Edinburgh defence coach Calum MacRae said: “Charlie has a number of appearances off the bench. It’s a very different Shiel dynamic coming off the bench to starting.

“He’s had a big impact off the bench so this is a good chance for him to show us his game control and that he’s managing the game appropriately like the other guys in his position who have done well in difficult conditions.

“We’re happy with how his development has progressed.

“It’s a blank canvas for Charlie. He’s got credit in the bank because of the performances he’s had off the bench.

“How good can he be? He’s got a good skill-set, he sees the game well, he’s a very instinctive player and it’s important he has a performance that not only encompasses the parts that come naturally to him but also that he can show that he can drive the team on a more global stage as well as making good local decisions when he sees the opportunities for 
himself.”

Grant Gilchrist captains the side tonight after a frustrating Six Nations as he has found himself behind Jonny Gray, Scott Cummings and clubmate Ben Toolis in the national second-row pecking order, only coming on to the bench due to Gray’s tournament-ending hand injury.

“He’s brilliant. He’s taken his minutes for Scotland where he gets them but one thing I’ve been very impressed with is his appetite to come back and pull on the Edinburgh shirt,” said MacRae of the 41-cap lock.

“You talk about how guys are mentally having come in from international stuff but I have no doubts at all about him as an individual. He’s highly motivated to win for Edinburgh and this week is a good example of that so I’m sure he’ll lead the team well.”

Edinburgh beat Cardiff 19-11 at the Arms Park last October but MacRae is expecting a tough contest tonight.

“To Cardiff’s credit, they are a very, very good attacking team. They like to move ball really quickly and that is something we are going to have to get into the middle of and upset,” he said. “They have come up here and got the results that they have looked for [including a European Challenge Cup quarter-final win last season]. That is something we are aware of but not something we are going to focus on too much, it is about our own performance.

“We will prep as we do for any other team. I know there has been a bit of a see-saw in results with us getting results away, down there, and also them coming up but we have prepared exactly the same so I don’t think there is anything in that other than they have taken their opportunities when they have come up.

“We have to make sure we limit those opportunities as much as possible.”

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