Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons believes Grant Gilchrist will need “two or three games” to get up to speed but admits the decision on when he returns to the Scotland fold will be made by national coach Vern Cotter.
The 25-year-old second-row forward returns to the Edinburgh bench for tonight’s trip to face Ospreys having been out since September, when he was forced off by a groin injury in Scotland’s World Cup pool match against the United States in Leeds.
If, as expected, he comes on in Swansea it will be his first appearance for Edinburgh since he broke his arm against Lyon in October 2014.
It has been a luckless couple of years for the Alloa man, with both those long-term injuries suffering complications, and Solomons hinted that his return would be gradual.
“That is Vern’s decision. That’s his call,” said the coach when asked if Gilchrist could be promoted speedily into the Scotland squad, who head to Rome next weekend for the third round of the Six Nations. “For me, he hasn’t played for us since October 2014. He has played very little rugby.
“He had the arm injury and then the groin injury and both had to be re-sorted. Touch wood, he stays injury free, but it will be for Vern to decide.
“I couldn’t consider starting him [against Ospreys tonight]. There is no way you could do that when a guy has been out for so long. My view is that it will take him two to three games to get back into it. I think we’ll see the best of him in about three games’ time.”
Solomons said Gilchrist had dealt with his series of misfortunes well and expressed delight at having one of his key players back.
“It has been very tough for him,” continued Solomons. “He told me that prior to this he had no injuries and that’s how it sometimes goes.
“I think he has coped pretty
well with it. At times it has been really disappointing, but he has come through well. He is full of beans and bounce and it’s great to have him back in the squad. It is good to have him back in the mix.”
Scotland scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, who has been deputising for national skipper Greig Laidlaw, could also get some much-needed game time after joining Gilchrist as a replacement.
Solomons has made four changes for the trip to Swansea. Scrum-half Sean Kennedy and wing Dougie Fife are promoted from the bench, while Allan Dell moves into the loosehead prop berth for Rory Sutherland, who is with the Scotland Six Nations squad.
Jamie Ritchie moves to blindside in place of captain Mike Coman, who is ruled out with an injured calf.
It is Edinburgh’s second trip to Wales in as many weeks following last Friday’s 22-21 loss to Scarlets. Solomons was angry about the late penalty decision which cost his side victory and said after the game it was time all three officials came from neutral countries. However, there will be two Welshmen on the flags again tonight, including Craig Evans, who was a touch judge in Llanelli last week.
Meanwhile, Tom Brown, who plays on the left wing tonight, has extended his contract by a further year.
Brown, who has been with Edinburgh since 2010 and was capped in the famous 9-6 away win over Australia in 2012, has been in fine form this season after battling back from an injury-ravaged couple of years.
He said: “I’m delighted I’ve managed to settle another deal and can look forward to another year at the club.”
Edinburgh team to play Ospreys
Liberty Stadium, Friday 19 February, kick-off 7.05pm - live on BBC 2 Scotland
15 Greig Tonks
14 Dougie Fife
13 Michael Allen
12 Sam Beard
11 Tom Brown
10 Phil Burleigh
9 Sean Kennedy
1 Allan Dell
2 Neil Cochrane (capt)
3 John Andress
4 Anton Bresler
5 Ben Toolis
6 Jamie Ritchie
7 Hamish Watson
8 Cornell Du Preez
16 George Turner
17 Grant Sheills
18 Simon Berghan
19 Grant Gilchrist
20 Magnus Bradbury
21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
22 Chris Dean
23 Blair Kinghorn
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