Mata starts BKT URC opener in the capital
Fijian star number 8 Viliame ‘Bill’ Mata will make his first start in nine months when Edinburgh Rugby host Dragons RFC at DAM Health Stadium tomorrow night in the BKT United Rugby Championship (Saturday 17 September, kick-off 7.35pm) – live on Premier Sports 2.
The 2019/20 URC Players’ Player of the Season – who made his initial comeback from injury in last weekend’s pre-season friendly in Treviso – is named in an experienced back-row alongside blindside flanker and newly appointed club co-captain, Jamie Ritchie, and fellow Scotland cap Luke Crosbie.
In the backline, Charlie Savala (stand-off) makes his fourth start for the club in the number 10 jersey as Scotland duo Darcy Graham (wing) and Mark Bennett (centre) both return to the starting XV.
Summer signing Sam Skinner (lock) could make his Edinburgh Rugby debut if called upon, as the English Premiership and European Champions Cup winner is named on an experienced bench, which features a further seven Scotland internationalists who’ve made a combined 652 appearances for the capital club.
Ahead of the match, Head Coach Mike Blair said: “We’re thrilled to be back home and we’re excited to kickstart the season in front of the Edinburgh supporters at DAM Health Stadium.
“The squad have all put in the hard yards throughout pre-season, gearing up for Round 1 of the competition, and now it’s time represent the city and show what it means to play for this great club.
“We know Dragons will travel north with confidence. They’ve made some savvy signings over the summer and have restructured their coaching team – they’ll feel rejuvenated as a squad, so we need be focussed and ready to take them on from the first whistle.
“The season opener is always exciting for everyone – players, staff, sponsors and supporters. It’s a chance to get your journey off to the best possible start, and that’s what we intend to do on Saturday night.”
Henry Immelman continues as full-back as Scotland duo Graham and Damien Hoyland are named on opposite wings.
Club centurion Chris Dean (inside centre) links up with Bennett in midfield as Scotland international scrum-half Ben Vellacott combines with Savala at half-back.
Hooker Dave Cherry – named vice-captain – packs down alongside prop pairing Boan Venter and Angus Williams up front as Scotland locks Glen Young and Marshall Sykes link up in the middle row to complete the pack.
Edinburgh Rugby team to face Dragons RFC at DAM Health Stadium in the BKT United Rugby Championship
Saturday 17 September (kick-off 7.35pm) – live on Premier Sports 2
15. Henry Immelman (16)
14. Darcy Graham (50)
13. Mark Bennett VICE-CAPTAIN (71)
12. Chris Dean (121)
11. Damien Hoyland (94)
10. Charlie Savala (11)
9. Ben Vellacott (21)
1. Boan Venter (25)
2. Dave Cherry VICE-CAPTAIN (57)
3. Angus Williams (12)
4. Marshall Sykes (23)
5. Glen Young (12)
6. Jamie Ritchie CAPTAIN (85)
7. Luke Crosbie (69)
8. Viliame Mata (95)
16. Stuart McInally (165)
17. Pierre Schoeman (83)
18. WP Nel (171)
19. Sam Skinner*
20. Nick Haining (25)
21. Henry Pyrgos (70)
22. Blair Kinghorn (119)
23. James Lang (19)
Unavailable: Wes Goosen, Jake Henry, Mesu Kunavula
*Edinburgh Rugby competitive debut