Groom captains side for Zebre opener
Summer signing Nic Groom captains Edinburgh Rugby on his competitive debut as the capital club face Zebre at BT Murrayfield in the opening round of the Guinness PRO14 this Saturday (28 September, kick-off 7.35pm).
The scrum-half is selected in the starting XV alongside fellow debutant, Nick Haining – who starts at No.8 – while second-row Murray Douglas makes his first Edinburgh appearance in seven years after re-joining the club on-loan from Brumbies this summer.
Elsewhere, new recruits Michael Willemse, Jamie Bhatti and Mesu Kunavula are all named among the replacements and if involved will make their competitive debuts, while Scotland international prop Murray McCallum is in line to make his 50th appearance for the club.
Ahead of the fixture, Head Coach Richard Cockerill, said: “We’re really excited to get the season started at home and in front of our own supporters.
“The two pre-season fixtures gave us a good chance to develop different combinations and see different players in action, but Saturday night’s match will be a real litmus test.
“Like us, Zebre will want to get the season off to the best possible start. We have to match them in all facets of the contest and win that physical battle in the early stages of the match.
“The squad have trained really well this week. We go into this weekend’s game with plenty of belief and confidence, while we’ve selected a side who are more than capable of delivering a winning performance.”
An unchanged back-three sees fullback Damien Hoyland joined by winger Duhan van der Merwe and Scotland 7s co-captain Jamie Farndale.
Scotland stars Matt Scott and Mark Bennett form an all-international centre pairing, while South African scrum-half Groom – who skippers the side in Stuart McInally’s absence – links-up with compatriot Jaco van der Walt at half-back.
David Cherry is named at hooker and packs down alongside Italian international prop Pietro Cecarelli – who faces his former club – and Pierre Schoeman. Club centurion Fraser McKenzie is paired with Douglas in the second-row.
Debutant Haining anchors a back-row that features blindside flanker Lewis Carmichael – who makes his first competitive start in over a year – and openside flanker Luke Crosbie.
Edinburgh Rugby team to face Zebre at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness PRO14
Saturday 28 September (kick-off 7.35pm) – live on Premier Sports
15. Damien Hoyland (63)
14. Jamie Farndale (2)
13. Mark Bennett (20)
12. Matt Scott (83)
11. Duhan van der Merwe (41)
10. Jaco van der Walt (39)
9. Nic Groom* CAPTAIN
1. Pierre Schoeman (23)
2. Dave Cherry (16)
3. Pietro Ceccarelli (10)
4. Fraser McKenzie (113)
5. Murray Douglas (1)
6. Lewis Carmichael (33)
7. Luke Crosbie (26)
8. Nick Haining*
Replacements: 16. Mike Willemse* 17. Jamie Bhatti* 18. Murray McCallum (49) 19. Mesu Kunavula* 20. Ally Miller (8) 21. Charlie Shiel (6) 22. Simon Hickey (19) 23. George Taylor (4)
Unavailable due to injury: James Johnstone, Ruan Steenkamp, Ross McCann, Jack Blain, Hamish Watson, Chris Dean
Unavailable due to international selection: W.P Nel, Simon Berghan, Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury, John Barclay, Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham, Henry Pyrgos, Viliame Mata
*Edinburgh Rugby competitive debut