EDINBURGH head coach Stevie Scott has challenged his players to secure their first hat-trick of RaboDirect Pro12 victories since 2010 when they host Connacht at Murrayfield tonight.
The club have won two games in a row since interim coaches Scott and Duncan Hodge returned from their commitments to the Scottish national team in March. And Scott is looking for continued consistency after beating Ulster 14-8 and Zebre 9-7.
“That’s the challenge of tomorrow night,” he said yesterday as he announced his team for Murrayfield. “We need to back up what we did against Ulster, where we saw a good response to this new coaching team, and also from the Zebre match, where we showed a lot of guts to grind out the win.
“We’ve worked hard and played a lot of good rugby in these games, and have been building a lot of spirit in the squad. We now need to take that forward.
“We just need to make sure we play the game in the right area and take our chances. If we don’t take our chances it will be a tight game. As you have seen across in Zebre we didn’t take our chances and we could have ended up losing that game.
“You only get half a dozen chances and we need to take them tomorrow night.”
Edinburgh won 28-27 against Connacht in Ireland in December and Scott added: “We need to treat our home games as a big advantage. We’ve the backing of our home fans, it’s a big pitch and the ground is quick and hard, which suits our players.”
Scott has named the same back division that defeated Zebre in Italy and has made three changes to the pack, of which two are enforced: Hamish Watson, Geoff Cross and Grant Gilchrist replace Ross Rennie (who sustained a shoulder injury against Zebre), Willem Nel (family bereavement) and Perry Parker, who starts on the bench.
Connacht head coach Eric Elwood also named his side yesterday, and was able to welcome back lock Michael Swift after injury. Connacht’s highest capped player, who missed out on the previous two games, will join Ireland international Mike McCarthy in the second row. There’s a reshuffle in the back row as Mick Kearney moves to No 6 and John Muldoon, who makes his 195th Connacht appearance, is named at No 7.
Elwood said: “Edinburgh is a huge game for us and it is still our intention to better last year’s finish in the league. We have Treviso to play away and we’ve two tough games to finish in Ulster and Glasgow who are in the top four.
“We are still looking for that betterment and that improvement year on year. And that’s very much a target in our sights. It starts this weekend now in Edinburgh.”
Edinburgh: 15 G Tonks, 14 L Jones, 13 M Scott, 12 B Atiga, 11 T Visser, 10 P Francis, 9 G Laidlaw (c) . 1 A Jacobsen, 2 R Ford, 3 G Cross, 4 G Gilchrist, 5 S Cox, 6 S McInally, 7 H Watson, 8 N Talei. Subs: 16 S Lawrie, 17 R Hislop, 18 J Yapp, 19 P Parker, 20 R McAlpine, 21 S Kennedy, 22 H Leonard, 23 T Brown.
Connacht: 15 R Henshaw, 14 D Poolman, 13 E Griffin, 12 B Murphy, 11 G Duffy (c), 10 D Parks, 9 K Marmion. 1 B Wilkinson, 2 A Flavin, 3 R Loughney, 4 M Swift, 5 M McCarthy, 6 M Kearney, 7 J Muldoon, 8 G Naoupu. Subs: 16 E Reynecke, 17 R Ah You, 18 JP Cooney, 19 A Browne, 20 M Fifita, 21 P O’Donohoe, 22 M Nikora, 23 F Vainikolo,