Simon Berghan is right man for Scotland says Richard Cockerill
The 27-year-old has not played since 23 December when he was sent off while playing for Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors and subsequently banned for stamping.
The ban meant that he missed Scotland’s 34-7 defeat by Wales in the showpiece opener on Saturday, but he is free to play against France at BT Murrayfield on Sunday.
Cockerill feels the New Zealand-born player with five Scotland caps is fit enough to hit the ground running at Test level – as long as he applies himself 100 per cent.
“France certainly have a big forward pack and physically it is going to be a big test for the Scotland forward pack, but Simon (pictured) is fresh,” Cockerill said. “I think that he has done well for us this season, he is durable and when he applies himself and concentrates the whole time then he can be a handful. Sometimes when he doesn’t concentrate he gets into a bit of bother.
“We have to push him and help him along the way, but Simon is a good athlete, he is slowly learning more about the set piece and getting better.
“He has a lot of potential and he has scrummaged well this year. He is certainly good enough for the Test arena. It is just whether he applies himself.”
However, it now looks unlikely that Darryl Marfo will play any part in the Six Nations tournament. The loosehead prop was seen back in training yesterday with Edinburgh, but is still three or four weeks away from playing in a match after a back problem.
Stuart McInally, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Hamish Watson, Cornell du Preez and one of either Murray McCallum or Berghan are the Edinburgh forwards set to be involved for Scotland against France.
As a result Cockerill has admitted that his forward options are stretched ahead of the key Guinness Pro14 clash with Leinster this Friday night.
The capital side go into the Myreside meeting fourth in Pool B and on the back of 11 wins in 14 matches in all competitions since they last played.
However, they know that the next two outings against Pool B second-placed side Leinster and third-placed Ulster will both be tough tests and will play a big part in how the season progresses.
“Friday will be a test for us mentally,” Cockerill said.
“We’re missing a few senior guys with the Scotland Test team, but we’ve played pretty well across the squad this year and if we can survive from a set piece points of view then we can compete. However, of late our scrum has been under a bit of pressure with guys missing across the board.
“Callum Hunter-Hill hurt his knee playing for Newcastle [on loan], so he’s not going to be available. As a result we’re a lock short and Viliame Mata or Magnus Bradbury [if not with Scotland] will step into those boots.
“It’s going to be a tough few weeks, there’s a long way to go yet – a lot to play for.”
With Mata or Bradbury taking up emergency second-row duties it looks likely to bring a return to pro rugby for John Hardie.
The New Zealand-born back-row, who has 16 national team caps, recently returned from a ban for “gross misconduct”.
His playing return for draft club Hawick lasted just 13 minutes before injury at the end of January, but he is fit and available for selection.
Cockerill said: “John is with us. He basically smashed his lip up, but he’s good to go and hopefully he’ll be involved on Friday.
“He’s an experienced player and he’s very tough and physical, so if John is available and fit – which he is – it would be sensible to get him back playing.”