Injured Edinburgh trio are not doubts for Lions tour

All three of Edinburgh’s British and Irish Lions squad members were listed as injured when the team for tonight’s inter-city match against Glasgow Warriors was announced yesterday lunchtime, but head coach Richard Cockerill stressed that Duhan van der Merwe, Hamish Watson and Rory Sutherland should all be fit in time to join up with the touring party in mid-June.

Duhan van Der Merwe during an Edinburgh Rugby training session at BT Murrayfield.
Duhan van Der Merwe during an Edinburgh Rugby training session at BT Murrayfield.

Sutherland and Watson’s injuries are not new. The former has been out of action since dislocating his shoulder whilst playing for Scotland against France in late March and continues to target a comeback in Edinburgh’s last game of the regular season away to Scarlets on 13th June, and the latter missed last week’s game against Glasgow with a tight groin but expects to be back for the capital side's next match against Ulster on 5th June.

Meanwhile, Van der Merwe played last week but now has a tight back. “I thought it was best to look after Duhan,” explained Cockerill. “He has to look after his body anyway, so it is a good opportunity to give him a rest. If it was the cup final he would be fit to play, but it is sensible in the circumstances that we give other guys a chance to get some game time.

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“Hamish is getting a lot better and he should be available to play against Ulster,” the coach added. “Whether Rory will be fit in time for Scarlets is yet to be seen, but his rehab has been very, very positive. If he is not fit for Scarlets, then we certainly expect him to be fit to join the Lions the week after.”

Cockerill also revealed that second-row Grant Gilchrist is facing a couple of months out of action with an ankle injury. “It will require surgery", he said. “He won’t be available for the rest of the season and will miss the summer tour, but he will be available for the start of pre-season.

Jamie Ritchie is also listed as injured, but his absence is more of a precautionary measure. “He had a slight bang to his ribs and it was sensible not to pick him,” said Cockerill.

While this match is effectively a dead rubber, it will be a landmark occasion for full-back Blair Kinghorn, 24, who will become the youngest player to reach 100 appearances for the club.

“Blair is a fantastically gifted footballer, who reads the game very well and has a great skill-set, so if he can get a run of games uninterrupted and keep himself fit then he will get better and better,” said Cockerill. “He's got a good personality and I think there is a huge amount of talent that is still to come out of him. There is a what he can improve on, and with game-time and opportunities at test level he will become a better player.”

It is also a big occasion for 21-year-old Australian-born, Scottish-qualified stand-off Charlie Savala, who has been given his second start for the club. “He had a good stint against Cardiff until he went off injured,” said Cockerill. “He was due to start against Zebre but had a back spasm a couple of days before. But he’s been training well and the only way for him to improve is to put him in the firing line and see how he goes.”

Edinburgh (v Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield, Saturday @ 7.35pm): B Kinghorn, D Hoyland, J Johnstone, C Dean, E Sau; C Savala, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, W Nel, M Sykes, J Hodgson, M Kunavula, L Crosbie, V Mata. Subs: M Willemse, B Venter, L Atalifo, A Miller, C Boyle, C Shiel, J Blain, G Taylor.