Scottish-Italian Shield key to Edinburgh as they face Benetton without almost a full team of internationals

Edinburgh put more than 50 points past Benetton at the DAM Health Stadium last month but the capital club expect a very different challenge when the sides meet again in Treviso on Saturday.

Stuart McInally back in the Edinburgh side after injury and an outing for the Barbarians. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Stuart McInally back in the Edinburgh side after injury and an outing for the Barbarians. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Recent history suggests they are right to be cautious. Benetton beat Edinburgh last season in Italy and repeated the feat in a pre-season match in September, edging out the visitors 29-26 thanks to a last-gasp penalty try at Stadio Monigo.

Stevie Lawrie, the Edinburgh forwards coach, expects a physical battle and is particularly wary of the Italian side’s prowess around the breakdown. But he also knows his own side are in the midst of a good patch of form as they seek their fourth win in a row and their third away from home. A victory for Edinburgh would put more distance between them and Benetton in the pursuit of the Scottish-Italian Shield which comes with the additional prize of a place in next season’s Champions Cup.

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“We’ve not won there for a wee while and that’s really important to remember,” said Lawrie. “Listen, that Scottish-Italian Shield is really important to us. We’ve looked at the league table but also at that and qualification for Europe next season is vitally important. We take confidence from how we played at home but if you look at how they play at home with the crowd behind them and the passion they’re a different prospect physically and emotionally. So we’ve put more on the emotional side this week than their technical and tactical stuff.”

Coming in the immediate aftermath of the autumn Tests, Edinburgh go into the game without what is almost a full side of international and/or injured players. They are missing a scrum-half but the following team would give most opponents a run for their money: Emiliano Boffelli; Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Cammy Hutchison, Duhan van der Merwe; Blair Kinghorn; Pierre Schoeman, Dave Cherry, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.

None is available to face Benetton but Lawrie is backing those who are as the capital side embark on a crucial run of fixtures which continues next week with a home league game against Munster, then takes them into Europe to play Saracens and Castres before two festive derbies against Glasgow Warriors round off the year.

“The guys who have travelled [to Treviso] are similar to those who went to Zebre away and Cardiff away,” said Lawrie. “They know the score. Their challenge is to make it difficult next week for when we have a few more guys back who were involved in the autumn Tests.”

Edinburgh may be missing many of their top guns but they are able to welcome back Stuart McInally, James Lang, Henry Immelman and Ben Vellacott from injury. Damien Hoyland, Nick Haining and Glen Young are also involved after being only lightly used by Scotland while Henry Pyrgos and Marshall Sykes also return to the starting XV.

Edinburgh forwards coach Steve Lawrie, left, with head coach Mike Blair. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“Wins bring a certain level of confidence and belief and that’s important,” added Lawrie. “But it’s about fundamentals. Treviso are very strong at home and it’ll be game of fine margins and we need to make sure we’re on the right side of it.”

Benetton v Edinburgh (Stadio Monigo, Treviso, Saturday, 1pm BST. TV: live in Viaplay)

Benetton: Rhyno Smith; Marcus Watson, Ignacio Brex, Marco Zanon, Matteo Minozzi; Tomas Albornoz, Dewaldt Duvenage (c); Nahuel Tetaz, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Simone Ferrari, Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Manuel Zuliani, Lorenzo Cannone.

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Replacements: Giacomo Nicotera, Ivan Nemer, Tiziano Pasquali, Scott Scrafton, Giovanni Pettinelli, Alessandro Garbisi, Jacob Umaga, Tommaso Menoncello.

Edinburgh: Henry Immelman; Damien Hoyland, Matt Currie, James Lang, Wes Goosen; Charlie Savala, Henry Pyrgos; Boan Venter, Stuart McInally, Angus Williams, Marshall Sykes, Jamie Hodgson, Nick Haining, Luke Crosbie (c), Ben Muncaster.

Replacements: Patrick Harrison, Jamie Jack, Lee-Roy Atalifo, Glen Young, Connor Boyle, Ben Vellacott, Jaco van der Walt, Chris Dean.

Referee: Craig Evans (WRU).

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