Scotland star Barclay to make debut against Leinster
Scotland international back-row John Barclay will make his long-awaited Edinburgh debut in tomorrow night's Guinness PRO14 showdown with reigning champions Leinster at BT Murrayfield (Friday 22 March, kick-off 7.35pm).
The 71-times capped flanker is named in a starting XV that features 10 internationalists – four of whom started in last weekend’s remarkable 38-38 Calcutta Cup draw at Twickenham. Scotland stars Darcy Graham, Hamish Watson, Ben Toolis and WP Nel all return for tomorrow night’s crunch match.
The team selection also sees Scotland centre Matt Scott return to action for the first time in over five months following a head injury sustained against RC Toulon back in October.
Ahead of the fixture, Head Coach Richard Cockerill, said: “We need to be as strong as we can be because we’ve had some poor results where we’ve slipped up where we shouldn’t have.
“That’s put us in a situation where, with four league games to go, we’re probably going to have to win all of them if we want to qualify for the play-offs.
“There’s been a lot of disruption over the last two months because of the Six Nations, but it is now back to the bread and butter of the league and making sure we get it right tomorrow night.”
“It’ll be good to have John [Barclay] back on the field and he can share his experience with the rest of the team.
“He’s a fantastic player and his leadership around the group and his knowledge of the game is very, very good, and that could well be important for us in the run-in.”
A revamped back-three sees Graham return to club action following last weekend’s two-try performance against England in the Guinness Six Nations.
The winger is joined by fullback Dougie Fife and wing Duhan van der Merwe, with both players returning from injuries that kept them out of the defeat to Benetton two weeks ago.
Scott – who makes his seventh start of the season – is partnered by James Johnstone in midfield, with the latter scoring his seventh try of the season against Benetton a fortnight ago.
Experienced scrum-half Henry Pyrgos captains the side, with Jaco van der Walt at stand-off.
Pierre Schoeman is named at loosehead prop and packs down alongside Scotland pairing Ross Ford and Nel, while Toolis is partnered by fellow club centurion Fraser McKenzie in the second-row.
Barclay makes his debut at blindside flanker with Scotland star Watson at openside, while Fijian international No. 8 Viliame Mata returns to the No. 8 jersey.
Edinburgh team to face Leinster at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday 22 March (kick-off 7.35pm) – Live on Premier Sports
BACKS: 15. Dougie Fife (122); 14. Darcy Graham (19); 13. James Johnstone (38); 12. Matt Scott (80); 11. Duhan van der Merwe (36); 10. Jaco van der Walt (35); 9. Henry Pyrgos (19) CAPTAIN
FORWARDS: 1. Pierre Schoeman (18); 2. Ross Ford (194); 3. WP Nel (129); 4. Fraser McKenzie (112); 5. Ben Toolis (105); 6. John Barclay*; 7. Hamish Watson (95); 8. Viliame Mata (55)
REPLACEMENTS: 16. Cameron Fenton (11); 17. Allan Dell (57); 18. Simon Berghan (62); 19. Callum Hunter-Hill (15); 20. Magnus Bradbury (60); 21. Charlie Shiel (2); 22. Simon Hickey (16); 23. Chris Dean (83)
Unavailable due to injury: Lewis Carmichael; David Cherry; Luke Hamilton; Blair Kinghorn
Edinburgh competitive debut*