Richard Cockerill hailed Darryl Marfo’s whirlwind rise from fourth-choice loosehead at Edinburgh to a potential first Scotland cap in the space of a few weeks.
The 27-year-old Londoner, whose mother is from Ayrshire, arrived from Bath in the summer behind, when fit, Al Dickinson, Allan Dell and Rory Sutherland in the pecking order for the No 1 jersey. That trio has not been fit, though, with Dickinson out until the new year, Dell missing the autumn series and Sutherland only just returning to the bench for this evening’s visit of the Ospreys after a long lay-off.
Marfo has seized his chance and Cockerill said: “I’m obviously delighted for guys to get their opportunity. Darryl has worked very hard. Through circumstance he’s got an opportunity. It’s pretty unusual to have Dickinson, Dell and Sutherland unavailable.
“There’s an injury with [Glasgow loosehead Gordon] Reid too. So you’re starting to test the depth of your squad. Darryl’s worked very hard. He’s come in as fourth-choice loosehead for Edinburgh and he’s done exceptionally. Scotland wouldn’t have picked him if they didn’t think he could play at that level. I hope he gets an opportunity and I’ll be very interested to see how he plays at that well. Set-piece he is very physical and very good.”
Marfo has been held back by the Scotland squad, as has openside flanker Hamish Watson, but Cockerill does have a few players released for today’s match at Myreside. Wing Dougie Fife, centre Phil Burleigh and scrum-half Nathan Fowles get a run in the backs.
Up front, lock Grant Gilchrist and back-rowers Jamie Ritchie and Cornell du Preez all start. Magnus Bradbury returns to the squad but is named on the bench.
“We know Magnus is a very good player. We’ve dealt with his disciplinary stuff and we move forward,” said the coach.
“He’s always applied himself in training. He’s on the bench because he’s working his way back. He hasn’t played for almost five weeks and also Luke Crosbie has played very well. Jamie Ritchie and Cornell du Preez have played well too so it’s difficult for him to push his way straight back into the team.”
Cockerill stressed the importance of this evening’s game against an Ospreys side who have had a bad start to their season and are missing nine players to the Wales squad, as Edinburgh look to continue their winning run and head into the mini break in good spirits.
He said: “We’re now four points above Treviso, who are fifth in our conference, but the reality is that we’re probably not going to be as consistent as the three sides above us [Scarlets, Leinster and Ulster].
“We want to put some space between ourselves in fourth and everyone below us because as a bare minimum that gives us the opportunity to qualify for Europe next season. That’s an important objective.
“So is putting pressure on the sides above us – we still have them all to play and we’d like to be in the mix so that we’ve got a chance of challenging for the top three. This isn’t a season-defining match by any means, but it would put distance between the guys below us and put pressure on the teams above us.”
Seven changes to the team is actually quite modest compared with a lot of Cockerill’s recent selections but he said that is a policy that will continue through the season.
“The reason I’ve rotated is because we’re going to miss large parts of our squad for long periods of the season, so I didn’t want to carry on playing the same team and then have to make mass changes and bring in guys who just haven’t played,” explained Cockerill.
“Instead we’ve been rotating seven, eight, nine guys pretty much every week. Hopefully that’s put us in good stead. We’ll miss players of the calibre of our Scotland internationals but we’ve got a good group of guys that will be very competitive, physical and motivated against Ospreys.”