Storylines: CA Brive
Edinburgh Rugby host French side CA Brive in Round 4 of the EPCR Challenge Cup (21 January, kick-off 8pm), with the capital club welcoming the return of fans at DAM Health Stadium for the first time in 2022.
There are the storylines to look out for as the capital side look to get their European campaign back on track.
Freddie Owsley starts on the wing for Edinburgh and will be picking up his first cap for the capital club in the process. Owsley joined the club from the Bristol Bears Academy in May 2021, having made the switch from athletics.
Owsley represented Great Britain U20 in the 200m, 400m, 4x100m and 4x400m and was crowned national 400m U20 Champion before earning a place in the British indoor and outdoor senior 200m final. The speedster displaying all of his sprinting prowess while playing for the Southern Knights in the FOSROC Super6, slaloming his way past sprawling Heriot’s defenders.
The devilishly quick winger completes an exciting Edinburgh back-three, alongside experienced international campaigners Darcy Graham and Emiliano Boffelli.
Blair’s former employers
Head Coach Mike Blair spent a season playing for tonight’s visitors in 2012, featuring 24 times and scoring one try, and will go head-to-head (in the coaching box) with some of his former teammates. Blair featured on the pitch alongside current Brive coaches Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, Arnaud Mela, and Goderdzi Shvelidze. Pejoine – now attack coach at Brive – shared matches with Blair while at Brive and picked up 320 appearances for the French side between 2000-2017.
Two of Blair’s former teammates are still playing at the club; fullback Thomas Laranjeira and Algerian internationalist Saïd Hireche both shared the field with Blair during his time in France. Laranjeira is starting on Friday, leading the side out as captain.
Tighthead prop Pietro Ceccarelli will make his first appearance against Edinburgh since departing for Brive in 2020. The Italian internationalist arrived in the capital in 2018, playing 24 times during his stint with the club before heading to New Aquitaine to link up with his current employers.
Ceccarelli was a popular figure during his time at Edinburgh and will hope his inside track on former teammates can give him an edge at scrum-time. The prop has 15 Italy caps to his name, most recently facing New Zealand in November last year, and has played against Scotland twice while on national duty.
Injured players back in the fold
Edinburgh’s six-day turnaround between games has seen rotation in selections, including the return of some of their injured star players. Mesu Kunavula makes his first start of the season at 8, the Fijian Internationalist having been out with a knee injury sustained while on international duty in the recent Autumn Nations series.
In the backs, Cammy Hutchison and Darcy Graham make their returns from injury, having last featured against Saracens and Benetton respectively. The three returning players form part of an attacking Edinburgh backline, with Charlie Shiel and Blair Kinghorn running the show in the halves, with the in-form Mark Bennett completing the midfield alongside Hutchison.
The biggest story for Friday’s fixture is that it will see the return of the fans to DAM Health Stadium. COVID-19 restrictions meant that the January clash against Cardiff was, to all intents and purposes, behind closed doors. The non-playing squad members put in as much noise as possible, however it was a stark reminder that rugby is nothing without fans.
Friday’s match will also be Edinburgh’s first European home match with a crowd since January 2020, when the capital side put Agen to the sword, triumphing 36-0 at BT Murrayfield. Darcy Graham will be hoping for a repeat performance from the tie; the Hawick man bagging four tries in a typically electric display.