Scotland skipper John Barclay will make his long-awaited comeback from a ruptured Achilles and finally don an Edinburgh jersey in Friday’s Guinness Pro14 crunch with Leinster at BT Murrayfield.
Barclay was injured playing for his former club, Scarlets, in last season’s Pro14 semi-final at Glasgow but recently revealed that he was targeting the clash with the Irish province for his return, and Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill confirmed that the 32-year old will be in his matchday squad of 23 this week. He also revealed that full-back Blair Kinghorn, who twisted an ankle in the Wales-Scotland game two weeks ago, is out for the rest of the season as he faces a possible ten-week lay-off.
“It’s good to have him back and playing, I’m sure he would say exactly the same,” said Cockerill of Barclay.
“The thing is that he has to be good enough to get into the team because, in his absence, the guys have stepped up. Magnus Bradbury has done exceptionally well, we have Hamish Watson, Vili Mata, Jamie Ritchie, Luke Crosbie, so there is some stiff competition in that back row.
“He has got to catch up very quickly. Let’s just see where he gets to at the weekend but his leadership around the group and his knowledge of the game is very, very good and that could well be important for us.”
Barclay, who has 71 caps, announced he was joining Edinburgh last season after five years in Wales.
During his absence the national captaincy has been mainly taken on by Greig Laidlaw and Stuart McInally, the Edinburgh hooker and club captain who hoisted the Calcutta Cup on Saturday after that extraordinary 38-38 draw at Twickenham.
Cockerill revealed that, of his returning cavalry of Test stars, McInally and lock Grant Gilchrist will be rested this week but all others come back into the mix, despite the huge Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final following eight days later, as the coach admitted all four of their final Pro14 games have to be won if they are to have any chance of getting back in the play-offs.
The capital pro team currently lie fifth in Conference B, seven points adrift of third-placed Ulster. They are also three behind Scarlets in fourth, where a finish would give them another shot at Champions Cup qualification through a play-off, unless, of course, they win the competition.
“We haven’t got the privilege really to be able to rest anybody we’d like to,” continued Cockerill. “But we’ve created a situation by not winning games we could have, or should have, that we’re going to have to win our last four games to be in the play-offs, minimum. And that still might not get us there.” The Englishman was at Twickenham on Saturday with Dean Ryan, another who moved north in his coaching career and had a stint as Scotland assistant coach in 2012-13.
Cockerill couldn’t help but fluctuate over where he placed the word “we” as he looked back at the amazing game.
“It was an unbelievable game of rugby, wasn’t it?” he said. “One we’ll probably not see again for a long time, and probably one that, in hindsight, Scotland will be disappointed that they didn’t win.
“It just shows if we have a little bit of belief in what we’re doing, and we start better, then maybe we’ll win those games.”
The English “we” returned when Cockerill was asked if he had any forfeits to fulfil at training on Monday, such as the “See You Jimmy” wig he donned after the Scottish Calcutta win at Murrayfield last year. “No, we didn’t lose, so it was good,said Cockerill with a grin. “Edinburgh boys played well, Scotland didn’t lose and England didn’t lose.”
The former England hooker was keen to give some limelight to his star No 2 and skipper McInally for that sensational try that sparked the fightback from 31-0 down.
“It was some try – it sort of gets lost in the game,” he said. “But to charge down from 60 metres and outpace [England wing] Jonny May to score a try, I’d be talking about that for a long time if I was him. It sort of stemmed the flow a little bit.
“I was really, really proud of the Edinburgh players in particular, from my end. I thought [two-try hero] Darcy Graham, especially the first try was an outstanding finish. With Stu McInally and Magnus’s tries, as a club, we had a huge impact on the game.”