Edinburgh Rugby hit by Covid call-offs ahead of 1872 Cup clash with Glasgow Warriors

Edinburgh have been hit with a raft of call-offs ahead of their 1872 Cup clash with Glasgow Warriors as Covid and injuries take their toll.

Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair has been hit by a raft of call-offs.   (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair has been hit by a raft of call-offs. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Mike Blair, the capital side’s coach, has made seven changes to the side that beat Saracens so impressively in the European Challenge Cup.

Among the missing men are captain Grant Gilchrist, experienced prop WP Nel, international centre James Lang and Scotland No 8 Nick Haining.

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All four are unavailable for Monday’s first leg at Scotstoun along with Blair Kinghorn and Jamie Ritchie, who both missed the Saracens game.

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Blair has also opted to rejig his half-backs, with Ben Vellacott and Charlie Savala dropping to the bench and Henry Pyrgos and Jaco van der Walt replacing them at nine and ten, respectively. Pyrgos captains the team.

There is a return for the talismanic Darcy Graham, who comes in on the wing for Jack Blain.

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Blair, who is also without long-term injury victims Viliame Mata, Damien Hoyland and Henry Immelman, refused to be despondent as he looked forward to his first inter-city derby as head coach.

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Darcy Graham is back in the Edinburgh team after missing the Saracens match. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“Some are injury and some are Covid. But the vast majority of that list – taking out Bill and Damian – we’re expecting to be around in the next couple of weeks,” said Blair.

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“It’s the way the game is at the moment. Some teams get lucky with things, some teams get unlucky. This scenario creates opportunities to be resilient. It is very easy to say we are missing him, him and him but I want to back our guys coming in. We have a quality team that we are able to put out on the pitch.

“I believe players coming in are going to make a real impact and stick their hands up to play the following week.”

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Cammy Hutchison comes in at inside centre for Lang and there are three changes in the pack. Fijian international Lee-Roy Atalifo gets the nod at tighthead prop, with Nel ruled out; Scotland cap Jamie Hodgson is named at lock in place of Gilchrist and Magnus Bradbury replaces Haining at No 8.

It’s been a trying few days for Blair and some players were instructed to train alone last week in a bid to mitigate the spread of Covid.

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Edinburgh’s bench looks particularly inexperienced, with props Harrison Courtney and Angus Williams having just seven appearances between them. There is also a place among the replacements for lock Glen Young, the summer signing from Harlequins who has yet to play for his new club due to injury.

Blair said the squad had been tested rigorously but is acutely aware of the increased threat from the Omicron virus which put paid to Boxing Day fixtures between Cardiff and Scarlets, and Ulster and Connacht.

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“We’d usually PCR twice per week but we’ve done more in the last 10 days,” said the coach. “We’ve lateral flow tested most days as well.

“So, it is fingers crossed. We’ve had some cases and as far as we see we’re going to be through that – we’ve avoided the clusters – but as you know with these things, families together at Christmas – we got the families all to do lateral flows – but with the transmissibility of this strain it might be that it just slips through somewhere.”

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Edinburgh (v Glasgow, Scotstoun, Monday, 7pm): Emiliano Boffelli; Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Cammy Hutchison, Ramiro Moyano; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos (c); Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, Lee-Roy Atalifo, Marshall Sykes, Jamie Hodgson, Luke Crosbie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury.

Subs: Dave Cherry, Harrison Courtney, Angus Williams, Pierce Phillips, Glen Young, Ben Vellacott, Charlie Savala, Chris Dean.

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