Edinburgh Rugby’s acting head coach Duncan Hodge believes that John Hardie can force his way into the Scotland squad as the Six Nations unfolds over the next few weeks.
The back-row man is making his return from injury tonight against Munster in the rearranged Guinness Pro12 match at Myreside and it is a big boost for both club and country.
When Hardie arrived on these shores from New Zealand in 2015 he burst onto the scene and could seemingly not put a foot wrong.
Throughout the World Cup towards the end of that year and then through the first half of 2016 he was one of the first names on the teamsheet for the national team.
However, the emergence of club team-mate Hamish Watson in the same position as him followed by niggling injuries – culminating in Hardie sustaining an ankle problem against Australia in November – has made it a frustrating few months for the 28-year-old.
As Hardie prepares to play for the first time in two and a half months, Hodge said: “It has been a tough season for John, both in terms of the injuries he has had and also the fact that he and Hamish Watson were battling it out for the starting No 7 jersey with Edinburgh and Scotland.
“The ankle injury came at a bad time because he missed some crucial Scotland matches and some big ones for us, but it is great that he is now back in the mix.
“We all know what can happen during a Six Nations campaign when it comes to injury and form and John will want to put himself in with a chance of playing for Scotland in the coming weeks, as will the guys who were with the national squad but have come back to us for this match.
“John is just concentrating on this match and then we will see what happens.”
As well as Hardie, Ben Toolis, Cornell Du Preez, Damien Hoyland and Stuart McInally have returned from the Scotland camp to bolster Edinburgh’s ranks for this important match.
In the front-row it will be a big night for props Jack Cosgrove, 22, and Murray McCallum, 20.
“With Allan Dell and Simon Berghan in the Scotland squad to take on Ireland we have selected Jack and Murray to start and it is great for them,” Hodge said. “The two of them have come along nicely this season and they will be eager to take their chances when they come. As a prop you learn at this level with more game time and it is good to expose these boys to some tough matches.”
On the bench prop cover is provided by Derrick Appiah, who arrived on loan from Worcester Warriors this week, and Nick Beavon.
The latter joined the club from Melrose last summer but has found top team opportunities hard to come by.
Appiah, meanwhile, who has been capped at under-20 level by Italy, has been handed a two-month deal . Although he is predominantly a loosehead, he can cover at tighthead. Formerly of Modena, Mogliano and Rugby Parma, Appiah arrives at a time when Edinburgh are without their two injured international props in Al Dickinson and WP Nel, the latter having undergone surgery this week.
The capital side are tenth in the Pro12 table going into this game while Munster are second, but Hodge is hopefully that a lively home crowd can help his side kickstart their league campaign.
A large away contingent is also likely be at the match which takes place on the eve of Scotland’s Six Nations opener against Ireland at BT Murrayfield tomorrow afternoon.