Scotland stars return to face La Rochelle
Head Coach Richard Cockerill today named 11 Scotland players from the recent Autumn Nations Cup campaign in the Edinburgh squad to face Top 14 leaders La Rochelle in the Heineken Champions Cup at BT Murrayfield Stadium this Saturday (12 December, kick-off 8pm) – live on BT Sport.
The match marks a return to the top-flight of European cup competition for the capital side, who secured their return with last season’s first-place finish in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14.
The club will start nine of the returning international 11 in the Pool A opener, with back-three trio Blair Kinghorn (full-back), Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe (both wing), and newly-capped stand-off Jaco van der Walt, returning to the backline.
Rejoining the pack are the Scotland quintet of hooker and co-captain Stuart McInally, tighthead prop WP Nel, lock Ben Toolis and back-row forwards Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson.
The starting changes are completed by the return from injury of 22-times capped centre Mark Bennett (leg) and number 8 Viliame Mata, who is promoted from the bench after beginning his return from a long injury layoff last weekend.
The result is a largely new-look side, with the four remaining starters retained from last weekend’s league loss to Ulster: centre Chris Dean, scrum-half and co-captain Henry Pyrgos, loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman and lock Andrew Davidson.
The remaining two players returning from Scotland camp are named on the bench, where Rory Sutherland and Simon Berghan await the chance to enter the fray at loosehead and tighhead prop respectively.
An appearance this Saturday for Davidson and replacements Nathan Chamberlain and Mike Willemse would also mark their competition debut, Davidson and Willemse adding to their Challenge Cup efforts last season.
Edinburgh Rugby Head Coach, Richard Cockerill, said: “We worked exceptionally hard last season to earn a return to the Heineken Champions Cup.
“As a player, a coach and a fan, this is where you want to be – testing yourself against the best sides in Europe, so we are very much looking forward to this match.
“It’s good to welcome back some players from international duty to start. They’re quality players and we’ll be asking and expecting a lot from them as we look to get our European Cup campaign underway at home.
“La Rochelle are the current pace-setters in France, which says a lot in itself.
“They’re undeniably a quality side but we’ve shown in the past we can live with these teams and we’ll be going out there tomorrow to put a marker down on our cup campaign.”
Edinburgh Rugby team to face La Rochelle at BT Murrayfield
Heineken Champions Cup (Saturday 12 December, kick-off 8pm) – live on BT Sport
14. Darcy Graham (35)
13. Mark Bennett (43)
12. Chris Dean (98)
11. Duhan van der Merwe (61)
10. Jaco van der Walt (62)
9. Henry Pyrgos (40) CC
1. Pierre Schoeman (51)
2. Stuart McInally (147) CC
3. WP Nel (146)
4. Ben Toolis (123)
5. Andrew Davidson (9)
6. Jamie Ritchie (71)
7. Hamish Watson (113)
8. Viliame Mata (76)
16. Mike Willemse (28)
17. Rory Sutherland (86)
18. Simon Berghan (84)
19. Andries Ferreira (4)
20. Magnus Bradbury (84)
21. Nic Groom (17)
22. Nathan Chamberlain (6)
23. James Johnstone (56)
Unavailable due to injury (14): Lewis Carmichael, Luke Crosbie, Dan Gamble, Grant Gilchrist, Matt Gordon, Nick Haining, Damien Hoyland, Charlie Jupp, Mesu Kunavula, Fraser McKenzie, Murray McCallum, Dan Nutton, Charlie Savala, George Taylor.