Edinburgh up against Glasgow Warriors old boy in France as they seek to repeat success of 2008

A return to Castres on Sunday will stir some happy memories for Edinburgh coach Mike Blair who turned in a man-of-the-match performance when the sides last met in France almost 15 years ago.

Emiliano Boffelli is back in the Edinburgh team after a groin injury.  (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Emiliano Boffelli is back in the Edinburgh team after a groin injury. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

Blair captained the capital club to a 13-6 victory, with Mark Robertson scoring the only try as they notched up their first Champions Cup win on French soil.

“It was a really special day,” recalled the former scrum-half. “Like a few other teams in France, the rugby club is the heartbeat of the town. They get really good support and they have a really strong home record. Robbo did score a try, but I can't remember it! It was a great day for the club. Winning away from home in France is great and it is a special thing. We have talked about that as well, about the challenge we have ahead of us and what an opportunity we have.”

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To emulate the class of 2008-09, the current Edinburgh squad will look to replicate their performance of a month ago when they overcame the loss of three key players to injury before beating Castres 31-20 at the DAM Health Stadium. That bonus point win leaves them handily placed in fifth in Pool A, with six points from their opening two fixtures, and another win in the south of France would go a long way to securing their qualification for the round of 16, with the top eight in each of the two 12-team groups going through to the knockout stages.

Blair has brought back some of his big guns after a shadow Edinburgh side squeezed past Zebre in the URC last week. The coach dubbed it Edinburgh’s best win of the season given the number of big names missing but for the trip to France he is able to recall co-captains Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie as well as fellow forwards Pierre Schoeman, Luan de Bruin, Marshall Sykes and Viliame Mata. The backs are bolstered by the presence of talisman Emiliano Boffelli, who starts on the wing, and full-back Henry Immelman, both fit again after injuries.

Castres were Top 14 runners-up last year but have struggled this season and are currently 11th. Domestic travails suggest that Europe may not be their number one priority but Blair is wary of assuming as much.

“There is a huge amount of talent there,” he said. “The other thing is how they are coached and the cohesion they have in their squad. The way their coaches get them on the same page they look at their power game and line speed in defence and their set-piece also has ways of getting them into the game.”

Castres will be captained by the lavishly gifted Fijian Leone Nakarawa, a hero at Glasgow Warriors, who is now 34 but still capable of turning it on, according to Blair, who was impressed by his performance against Exeter Chiefs in round one, despite the 27-12 defeat.

Castres' Fijian forward Leone Nakarawa will captain the side against Glasgow. (Photo by VALENTINE CHAPUIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“He was excellent. He had a couple of turnovers, still trying to get his hands free in contact. With guys like him if he clicks he is pretty dangerous. They have [Josaia] Raisuqe and [Vilimoni] Botitu and Nakarawa who will add that little bit of magic dust on the top. It will be a real test for us.”

Castres Olympique v Edinburgh Rugby, Heineken Champions Cup Pool A, Stade Pierre Fabre, Sunday, 2pm BST. TV: live on BT Sport

Castres Olympique: 15. Thomas Larregain; 14. Martin Laveau, 13. Vilimoni Botitu, 12. Adrien Seguret, 11. Geoffrey Palis; 10. Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9. Gauthier Doubrere; 1. Quentin Walcker, 2. Gaetan Barlot, 3. Wilfrid Hounkpatin, 4. Leone Nakarawa (c), 5. Théo Hannoyer, 6. Baptiste Cope, 7. Josaia Raisuqe, 8. Teariki Ben-Nicholas.

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Replacements: 16. Pierre Colonna, 17. Matthew Tierney, 18. Aurélien Azar, 19. Ryno Pieterse, 20. Thomas Staniforth, 21. Kevin Kornath, 22. Santiago Arata Perrone, 23. Adrea Cocagi.

Hugo Southwell, with Phil Godman in support, on the attack for Edinburgh against Castres at Murrayfield in the 2008-09 season when they beat the French side home and away. Picture: Greg Macvean/The Scotsman

Edinburgh: 15. Henry Immelman; 14. Emiliano Boffelli, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. Cameron Hutchison, 11. Blair Kinghorn; 10. Charlie Savala, 9. Charlie Shiel; 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. David Cherry, 3. Luan de Bruin, 4. Marshall Sykes, 5. Grant Gilchrist (c), 6. Sam Skinner, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Viliame Mata.

Replacements: 16. Patrick Harrison, 17. Boan Venter, 18. WP Nel, 19. Jamie Hodgson, 20. Nick Haining, 21. Ben Vellacott, 22. Cameron Scott, 23. Jack Blain.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

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