NEWS | Watson returns for Connacht crunch match

Head Coach Richard Cockerill has issued a rallying call to the Edinburgh public, to come out in force to support their team in the first home game of the Guinness PRO14 season against Connacht at BT Murrayfield tomorrow night (Friday 14 September, kick-off 7.35pm).

“It would be great to have a big crowd and get in front of our own supporters, so we’ve got to match their passion with a fine performance – that’s going to be really important for us.”

Cockerill has made three changes to the side that faced Ulster in Belfast last weekend, with flanker Hamish Watson, wing Duhan van der Merwe and centre James Johnstone all coming into the starting XV.

Scotland star Watson – who was unavailable for selection last weekend due to the birth of his first child – is named in the back-row with fellow international Luke Hamilton who switches to to No.8 in the place of the injured, Bill Mata.

Mark Bennett drops out of contention due to injury and is replaced by Johnstone in midfield, whilst Van der Merwe returns to action after missing out on the trip to Belfast last weekend.

The South African winger is named in the place of Tom Brown, who fails to recover after picking up a knock against Ulster.

On his selection, Cockerill, said: “I know we’ve had two losses from two games, but we’re in a good place and that doesn’t tell the whole story.There’s a great spirit amongst the camp.

We just need to make sure that we put in the same performance against Connacht as we did against Ulster, and we’ll be fine.

“Connacht have had a pretty good start. They just lost to Glasgow, but could have won that at the death and then they had a pretty big win against Zebre last weekend.

“They’re playing some really good stuff.  Andy Friend seems to have had a really big impact on them and they’re playing with the ball in hand.”

In the back-three, Blair Kinghorn starts at fullback alongside Scotland international winger Dougie Fife and the once again fit, Van der Merwe.

Matt Scott – who makes his first Edinburgh appearance at BT Murrayfield since May 2016 – is joined in the midfield by Johnstone, whilst Henry Pyrgos and Simon Hickey both make their home debuts after being named at half-back.

An unchanged front-row sees captain Stuart McInally pack down alongside WP Nel and Pierre Schoeman, with Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist continuing their partnership in the boiler room.

The aforementioned Watson returns to action at openside flanker, as Hamilton and Jamie Ritchie complete the back-row.

Elsewhere, 23-year-old back-row Magnus Bradbury is once again fit and named amongst the replacements, whilst summer recruit Juan Pablo Socino is also included on the bench, and if called upon will make his competitive debut for the club.

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Edinburgh team to face Connacht at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday 14 September (kick-off 7.35pm) – live on Premier Sports.


15. Blair Kinghorn (66)


14. Dougie Fife (109)

13. James Johnstone (20)

12. Matt Scott (76)

11. Duhan van der Merwe (19)


10. Simon Hickey (2)

9. Henry Pyrgos (2)


1. Pierre Schoeman (2)

2. Stuart McInally (122) CAPTAIN

3. WP Nel (117)

4. Ben Toolis (90)

5. Grant Gilchrist (122)

6. Jamie Ritchie (50)

7. Hamish Watson (83)

8. Luke Hamilton (2)


Replacements: 16. Ross Ford (181); 17. Allan Dell (46); 18. Simon Berghan (50); 19. Fraser McKenzie (102). 20. Magnus Bradbury (53); 21 Sean Kennedy (62); 22. Jaco van der Walt (18); 23. Juan Pablo Socino*


*Edinburgh competitive debut