Edinburgh Rugby v Pau: Blair Kinghorn and Hamish Watson absences explained as Edinburgh eye home tie in last 16

Edinburgh have already secured a place in the last 16 of the European Challenge Cup but a victory in their final Pool C match against Pau on Friday night will guarantee them a home tie.

With that in mind and conscious of an arduous schedule, Mike Blair has chosen to make nine changes to his side for the match at the DAM Health Stadium.

Out go seven international players as Blair tries to manage workloads and blood young talent.

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Mark Bennett, James Lang, Emiliano Boffelli, Blair Kinghorn, Ben Vellacott, WP Nel and Hamish Watson are replaced by Matt Currie, Cammy Hutchison, Ramiro Moyano, Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos, Luan de Bruin and Conor Boyle. Nel is on the bench but the other six won’t be involved.

Matt Currie will partner Cammy Hutchison in the centre against Pau. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

There is also a back-row reshuffle which sees Magnus Bradbury move from six to No 8, with Glen Young - usually a lock - coming into the team at openside flanker. Ben Muncaster is missing with a knee injury. The other change is Marshall Sykes replacing Pierce Phillips in the second row.

“Managing these games, and the players, the fact that we just got back from South Africa on Monday afternoon following a Friday night game, it’s difficult,” admitted Blair, who said that Kinghorn and Watson had been omitted due to their heavy involvement with Scotland during the Six Nations and then Edinburgh’s two United Rugby Championship matches in South Africa.

“We don’t want to give guys opportunities just because they are contracted to Edinburgh and should get an opportunity. We want to give guys opportunities because of what they’ve done in training, because of their attitude, because of their investment in making themselves better and adding to the group.

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Cammy Hutchison will start for Edinburgh against Pau in the European Challenge Cup. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“So, the guys coming in, we feel they do that. Cammy Hutch and Matt Currie in the centres, brilliant to have them playing. I think when they’ve played they’ve been really impressive for us, but at the same time James Lang, Chris Dean and Mark Bennett have played well for us as well. So, it is a great chance for that pair to stick their hand up. There’s still a lot of class there.

“It is a challenge for Cammy, going up against Jale Vatubua, and Matt is looking forward to getting some game-time as well, so it is a nice opportunity for them.”

Edinburgh have impressed in the Challenge Cup, beating Saracens away before being edged out by London Irish in Brentford. They then thrashed Brive 66-3 at home and will win Pool C if they defeat Pau on Friday.

That would likely mean a visit from Bath in the last 16, unless Biarritz beat Toulon on Saturday night which would muddy the waters and open up the possibility of Edinburgh playing at home against the Challenge Cup ninth seeds which could be Worcester, Benetton, Perpignan, Saracens or Brive, depending on results this weekend.

History is on Edinburgh’s side. They are unbeaten in their last 17 home games in the pool stage of the Challenge Cup, winning 16 and drawing one (against Bordeaux-Bègles in November 2019). Pau, meanwhile, have lost eight of their last nine away games in the competition, with a 47-19 win against Italy’s Rugby Calvisano the only positive.

Edinburgh v Section Paloise (Pau), European Challenge Cup Pool C, DAM Health Stadium, Friday, 8pm. Streamed live at epcrugby.tv

Edinburgh: 15. Henry Immelman, 14. Darcy Graham, 13. Matt Currie, 12. Cameron Hutchison, 11. Ramiro Moyano Joya, 10. Jaco van der Walt, 9. Henry Pyrgos, 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. Stuart McInally, 3. Luan de Bruin, 4. Marshall Sykes, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Glen Young, 7. Connor Boyle, 8. Magnus Bradbury.

Replacements: 16. Adam McBurney, 17. Boan Venter, 18. WP Nel, 19. Jamie Hodgson, 20. Pierce Phillips, 21. Charlie Shiel, 22. Charlie Savala, 23. Chris Dean.

Pau: 15. Paul Auradou, 14. Aminiasi Tuimaba, 13. Eoghan Barrett, 12. Jale Vatubua (c), 11. Vincent Pinto, 10. Thibault Debaes, 9. Alexis Levron, 1. Téo Bordenave, 2. Ignacio Calles, 3. Kévin Yaméogo, 4. Hugo Auradou, 5. Steven Cummins, 6. Reece Hewat, 7. Thibaut Hamonou, 8. Jordan Joseph.

Replacements: 16. Lucas Rey, 17. Nicolas Corato, 18. Luc Ignace Vea, 19. Fabrice Metz, 20. Giovanni Habel Kuffner, 21. Clovis Lebail, 22. Zack Henry, 23. Thomas Carol.

Referee: Sara Cox (England).

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