Scotland stars return for Benetton showdown
Scotland internationalists Hamish Watson and WP Nel return from injury to feature in the starting line-up as Edinburgh face Benetton at Stadio Comunale di Monigo in the Guinness PRO14 tomorrow afternoon (Saturday 2 March, kick-off 3pm GMT/ 4pm local) – live on Premier Sports
The duo are joined in the starting XV by scrum-half Henry Pyrgos – who captains the side – and centre Chris Dean, with both players missing out on last weekend’s encounter against Cardiff Blues at BT Murrayfield due to international selection.
Scotland U20 standout Jack Blain makes his competitive debut on the wing alongside club centurion Tom Brown – who shifts to fullback – while Ally Miller is selected at No.8.
Influential trio Dougie Fife, Duhan van der Merwe and Viliame Mata miss out on the trip to Treviso through injury.
Ahead of the fixture, Head Coach Richard Cockerill, said: “It’s a huge game for us and it’s a huge game in the context of the conference. We’ve had a couple of defeats in the last few games and they are four points above us. We need to win.
“Benetton are a good side. They are the third best form team in the league after Munster and Leinster. They haven’t lost many games and they have picked off some big scalps in the league recently in Glasgow and Scarlets. They had a huge win against Dragons last weekend as well.
“It will be a very tough match, but the momentum of our season will swing if we can go there and win. That’s the reality of the game and that’s our objective. We’ve got to be hungry to go there and win.”
In the back-three, winger Damien Hoyland makes his second start of the season alongside fullback Brown and debutant, Blain.
Dean once again links-up with James Johnstone in a centre pairing that has produced 40 points so far this season, while Pyrgos returns to partner stand-off Jaco van der Walt at half-back.
David Cherry is once again selected at hooker and packs down alongside Pierre Schoeman and returning 27-times capped tighthead Nel in the front-row.
Locks Fraser McKenzie and Callum Hunter continue in the second-row, while Scotland star Watson anchors a back-row featuring up-and-coming duo Luke Crosbie and Miller.
Elsewhere, Scotland internationalist Ben Toolis is named among the replacements after featuring from the bench against France in last weekend’s Guinness Six Nations Test in Paris.
Edinburgh team to face Benetton Rugby at Stadio Comunale di Monigo in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday 2 March (kick-off 3pm GMT/ 4pm local) – live on Premier Sports and Free Sports
BACKS: 15. Tom Brown (117); 14. Damien Hoyland (59); 13. James Johnstone (37); 12. Chris Dean (82); 11. Jack Blain*; 10. Jaco van der Walt (34); 9. Henry Pyrgos (18) CAPTAIN
FORWARDS: 1. Pierre Schoeman (17); 2. David Cherry (15); 3. WP Nel (128); 4. Fraser McKenzie (111); 5. Callum Hunter-Hill (14); 6. Luke Crosbie (25); 7. Hamish Watson (94); 8. Ally Miller (7)
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford (193); 17 Rory Sutherland (73); 18 Pietro Ceccarelli (9); 19 Ben Toolis (104); 20 Senitiki Nayalo (2); 21 Nathan Fowles (70); 22 Simon Hickey (16); 23 Mark Bennett (15)
Unavailable due to injury: Lewis Carmichael; John Barclay; Luke Hamilton; Viliame Mata; Matt Scott; Dougie Fife; Duhan van der Merwe
Unavailable due to international selection: Simon Berghan; Magnus Bradbury; Allan Dell; Grant Gilchrist; Darcy Graham; Blair Kinghorn; Stuart McInally; Jamie Ritchie
*Edinburgh competitve debut