Back-row star Watson returns against Sharks
Scotland internationalist and British & Irish Lion Hamish Watson returns from injury to start against Cell C Sharks at DAM Health Stadium tomorrow night (Saturday 28 January, kick-off 5.15pm) – live on Viaplay.
Watson has been cleared for action (concussion) having progressed through the graduated return to play protocol to make his first appearance since facing New Zealand in November’s Autumn Nations Series.
The openside flanker’s inclusion in place of Luke Crosbie – currently in Scotland camp – is one of eight changes to the XV that claimed a famous European win against Saracens last weekend, as Edinburgh Rugby now go in search of a fourth consecutive victory in all competitions.
In the backline, Wes Goosen (wing) makes his first start since mid-December, replacing Blair Kinghorn who is retained by the national team.
The inclusion of Goosen on the wing is the only alteration to an otherwise unchanged back-three as Jack Blain (wing) and Henry Immelman (full-back) once again start.
Centres Mark Bennett – named captain – and James Lang continue in midfield as Ben Vellacott (scrum-half) and Charlie Savala (stand-off) start at half-back once more.
An all-new front-row sees Murray McCallum (tighthead) make his first appearance since re-joining the club earlier this month, with Boan Venter (loosehead) and Adam McBurney (hooker) both handed starts after featuring on the bench last weekend.
Scots capped locks Marshall Sykes and Glen Young complete the tight-five, taking the place of Grant Gilchrist and Sam Skinner who are also retained by Scotland.
Nick Haining starts at blindside flanker in place of Scotland skipper Jamie Ritchie in the only other change to starting XV, while Fijian number 8 Viliame ‘Bill’ Mata once again anchors the capital pack.
Ahead of the match, Head Coach Mike Blair said: “First and foremost, we’re absolutely delighted to see Hamish [Watson] back fit.
“He’s one of our most experienced players and someone who has the ability to influence a match with a game-changing piece of skill, turnover or destructive carry. His timely return is a real boost for both us and Scotland.
“We were obviously really pleased with the performance against Saracens last weekend. It was probably our most physically dominant display of the season so far, which was undoubtedly fuelled by a passionate home support at DAM Health Stadium.
“We’re really looking forward to getting back out there and representing our fans once again tomorrow night but we’re under no illusions about the side we’re coming up against. Cell C Sharks are one of the most dangerous teams in the league – they possess a hugely physical pack with plenty of size across the board.
“This is a massive league game for both clubs. We need to replicate last week’s efforts while once again fronting up physically. The Edinburgh supporters will also have a huge role to play, we’ll need their backing from first whistle to last to really drive us forward.”
Edinburgh Rugby team to face Cell C Sharks at DAM Health Stadium in the BKT United Rugby Championship
Saturday 28 January (kick-off 5.15pm) – live on Viaplay
15. Henry Immelman (24)
14. Wes Goosen (7)
13. Mark Bennett (81) CAPTAIN
12. James Lang (32)
11. Jack Blain (24)
10. Charlie Savala (25)
9. Ben Vellacott (32)
1. Boan Venter (39)
2. Adam McBurney (18)
3. Murray McCallum (63)
4. Marshall Sykes (35)
5. Glen Young (18)
6. Nick Haining (33)
7. Hamish Watson (134)
8. Viliame Mata (109)
16. Dave Cherry (65)
17. Luan de Bruin (17)
18. Lee-Roy Atalifo (29)
19. Jamie Hodgson (49)
20. Ben Muncaster (25)
21. Charlie Shiel (52)
22. Jaco van der Walt (93)
23. Cammy Hutchison (17)
Unavailable: Nick Auterac, Emiliano Boffelli, Matt Currie, Chris Dean, Darcy Graham, Stuart McInally, Harry Paterson, Angus Williams.
International camp: Luke Crosbie, Grant Gilchrist, Blair Kinghorn, Duhan van der Merwe, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Pierre Schoeman, Sam Skinner.