The New Zealand-born former world under-19 player of the year will make his debut from the start as Edinburgh look to make it two wins out of two after a 20-10 win at Cardiff last Friday. Fruean, who is hoping to play for Samoa at the 2019 World Cup, arrived from Bath in the summer, has recovered from a knee injury and will wear the No 12 jersey this evening.
Asked what Fruean will bring to the side, Cockerill said: “Obviously a lot of experience from the Crusaders and Super Rugby, and a lot of physicality.
“He knows and understands the game very well, he’s a very good talker in attack and defence, and he’ll be really helpful to [stand-off] Duncan Weir and [outside centre] Chris Dean around him. And also his physical presence. There’s no doubting he’s a big man, with good feet, and good skills, and hopefully he’ll cause some issues with and without the ball.”
Injuries hampered Fruean’s time at Bath and the man from Wellington had to have emergency heart surgery as a teenager when he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever.
Cockerill accepted that there was an element of risk to the signing but stressed: “You have to understand that where we are as a club at the moment, we’re probably not first off the rank when people are choosing clubs to come to.
“So we have to take a little bit of a risk on some players, and Robbie’s injury history isn’t perfect, but we’ll look after him, we’ll get him fit, and we’ve done that over the last few weeks to get him on the field.
“He’s quality, very much a class player, and for us to recruit that quality at this point and not be paying very, very top-end money, we have to take slight risks on certain players. I think Robbie’s a good player, a good man, and very much worth the risk, because I think we’ll be able to keep him fit in our environment. He’ll be a great asset.”
Fruean has shaken off a patellar tendon issue, which is not one of the more serious knee conditions. The heart issue is obviously a more serious concern but Cockerill is satisfied with the feedback he has had. “That’s an ongoing, bigger picture thing that needs to be exactly right,” said the coach. “The rest of it is just normal wear and tear on a player of his age who has played that much rugby.
“We’re looking after our players appropriately, and Robbie will be one of those guys who have to be managed around various parts of his body. The more serious one, his heart condition, is 100 per cent fine.
“He passed all his medical around that, and obviously the bigger picture is that he himself, or ourselves, would never take a risk on that.”
Scotland wing Damien Hoyland returns to the side, replacing the injured Dougie Fife, while six-week signing Michele Rizzo starts at loosehead. Hamish Watson is also back after being on Scotland duty in the summer in place of John Hardie.
There was a lot of chopping and changing at half-back last season, with scrum-halves Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Sean Kennedy and Nathan Fowles being regularly rotated and Weir and Jason Tovey vying for the No 10 jersey.
Cockerill has gone with Hidalgo-Clyne and Weir again this week and said: “They both played well in pre-season, and worked very hard. I like to keep the nines and tens combinations reasonably static and together, and have some consistency there. At the moment they’ve taken their opportunity and they’ve got a bit of a head start.
“Others will get their opportunities at the right time. They [Hidalgo-Clyne and Weir] are both very good players who I have faith in.”